Virtual Consults: For Better or Worse?

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Insights from research conducted over lockdown by Dr Fiona Imlach a Senior Research Fellow at the Health Services Research Centre, found high levels of patient satisfaction for virtual consults during lockdown, with most of the self-selected 1,000 participants surveyed online reporting they wanted this option to remain in future.

Much of the success came back to trust, empathy and communication and a good relationship and mutual trust with their Doctor.

The main concerns were around patient safety and privacy as having open and frank conversations while other members of your household are potentially listening in, was cited as an issue by a participant. Technical barriers were also an issue with some people reporting internet problems and then made to feel guilty that this was their problem.

While patient centered choices are key in any business, there is a need for communication and management with telehealth options. It is recommended to give an expectation around the timeframe for the consultation, so people are not getting anxious and kept wondering. Also, practices are encouraged to be proactive contacting people if there are going to be delays.

Dr Imlach states, “If you’re sitting in a waiting room, you can pick up on cues, if the practice is busy, but if you’re sitting at home and just waiting… It can be quite disruptive, especially if you’re trying to juggle other Zoom meetings.

For most surveyed it really came down to personal preference and often this depended on the topic of the consultation.

There are considerations in delivery of care from all staff in a practice, from reception managing peoples expectations and being the front line in offering choices, to practices reaching out with proactive contact about what changes are occurring and what to expect. Refer to an excellent guide from

Health Care Home consumer focus groups relating to access to general practice during Covid-19 by Dr Janine Bycroft Executive Director, Health Navigator Charitable Trust also found that most people had some level of contact with their GP practice over lockdown.
Many of the precautions happening in General Practice had not been well communicated, but most participants had no safety concerns about going to their GP over lockdown, given the precautions in place.


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