Children with inflammatory bowel disease can benefit from telephone consultations

A study led by researchers in Manchester, and published in the journal EBioMedicine, demonstrates that telephone consultation can be a convenient, time- and cost-effective alternative to face-to-face consultation for the routine out-patient follow up of children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Led by Dr Anthony Akobeng, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH), the study found that telephone consultation is not inferior to face-to-face consultation with regard to quality of life (QOL) measures, patient/parent satisfaction scores, disease relapses/hospital admissions etc.  Telephone consultation, however,  reduces consultation time and costs less. Dr Akobeng explains;

The study offers the potential for children and adolescents with IBD to be offered the choice of either telephone or face-to-face consultation.  Those who are doing well would not have to make unnecessary journeys to hospitals,

IBD comprises the chronic bowel disorders Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  Children with these disorders can experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, passing blood with the stools, severe abdominal pain, extreme tiredness, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss and failure to grow.

The condition affects an estimated 5.2 per 100,000 people under 16 years old, and the incidence of IBD, for which there is no medical cure, continues to grow.

In the UK, children with IBD are usually managed by paediatric gastroenterologists who are based in a few regional centres, such as RMCH.  This means that many need to be taken out of school and travel long distances with their families to attend routine outpatient clinics.

IBD is characterised by recurrent relapses alternating with periods of remission. During remission, the child is well and does not necessarily require interventions. This means that patients may be well at the time of their routine outpatient reviews. Yet, prior to this study, there was little evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of telephone consultation in this population. The findings of this study could also be applicable to the routine follow-up of children with other chronic diseases.

The study was a collaboration between RMCH and the University of Manchester, and was funded by the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme.