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Orthopaedic research at Frankston Hospital informs global best practice

A research project investigating the effectiveness of a ‘virtual clinic’ for following up patients post joint replacement surgery at Frankston Hospital is making an impact in Australia and overseas.

The research paper about the project, by Mr Nigel Broughton, Director of Orthopaedic Research at Peninsula Health, Mr Thomas Lovelock, Mr Michael O’Brien and Mr Ian Young, is on the most read list from The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Mr Broughton says the research all started in 2000, when the orthopaedic surgeons including himself saw an opportunity to redesign how the outpatient clinic worked.

“I could see a need to reduce unnecessary visits to the clinic by elderly patients, which would in turn free up consulting time for new patients,” explains Mr Broughton.

“Face to face consultations in the outpatient clinic use up a lot of health care resources. We identified these visits were often unnecessary and a burden on patients who had to take time off work, arrange transport and disrupt their family life in order to attend.”

Instead, suitable patients can now be seen through the virtual clinic.

Patients due for follow up – at one, five and seven year’s post‐operatively, and biennially after that, are mailed a questionnaire and a request for an X-Ray. The surgeon then reviews the questionnaire and radiograph and decides whether a face‐to‐face review is necessary.

Almost 19 years later, the virtual clinic is still in operation, and the team continue to improve how they deliver the service.

“As the virtual clinic continues we are refining the questions we ask,” says Mr Broughton.

“At the same time we are involved with updating the National Guidelines put out by the Australian Orthopaedic Association on follow up for hip and knee replacement.”

It’s a big project, and one that has involved many health professionals over the years. Mr Broughton is pleased the virtual clinic model is being acknowledged around the world, and hopes it will be implemented into standard practise for following up joint replacement surgery patients.

“I’m very proud of the team I work with,” says Mr Broughton.

“Everyone in the Orthopaedic Department supports this work – the admin staff, the nurses in theatre, on the ward and in out-patients, as well as allied health staff and the surgeons, both consultants and trainees.  It’s a real team effort.”