The Covid-19 crisis is likely to contribute to a sea-change in the nature of GP consultations – with video becoming increasingly common, according to researchers.
Video consultations were already popular with patients who used them – but clinicians had more mixed views, according to an analysis conducted by Warwick University. Following the crisis, phone consultations may become the default option for first contact with patients – but video has proved much superior in building rapport between doctors and patients, according to a report in the BJGP Open.
The researchers analysed seven studies on video consultations undertaken in the last decade. Studies generally found that doctors continued to see face to face consultations as the gold standard – but there was evidence that video consultations were best for routine appointments, according to the researchers, led by Dr Helen Atherton, of Warwick Medical School. Doctors were also concerned about patients who would not have access to video, the studies showed.
Dr Atherton said: “Our review included studies that showed that routine visits were a good use for video consultations, but that patients with long term conditions are more likely to prefer face-to-face consultations. This is interesting because lots of the consultations in general practice are with people who are older and have long-term conditions, the same people who are most at risk in the current situation. Regardless, video was associated by patients with benefits such as convenience and avoiding a trip to the surgery, the latter being particularly beneficial at the present time. Now is a good time to try it if you want the reassurance of seeing your GP, and your practice is offering this option.”
She added: “Remote consulting has already become a necessity in the current climate, and video is one of the options for delivering this. It is likely that telephone consultations will become the default option for most practices because they are already well established ways to consult. But where practices can deliver video consultations, or arrange a video consultation set up, the current crisis has quickly become a stimulus to do this, and the longer it goes on for, the greater the need to be able to see patients as well as talk to them.
“Whether a patient can request video consultations or not is dependent on whether their general practice is offering this service. At the very least, practices will be offering a telephone consultation and patients can ask about the availability of video consultation services.”