It is fair to say that video and telephone consultations have been on the rise in recent times. Even before the pandemic, virtual consultations were strongly advocated by healthcare systems. Now, a digital-first approach is the ‘new norm’! What a rapid change in perception and behaviour.
Equipment is now largely accessible. From smart phones, tablets and computers to digital remote monitoring technology, the scope of what is available to healthcare professionals has been dramatically increased. The NHS also made it much easier for frontline staff to use tech with their own best judgement to support managing the impact of the pandemic on the healthcare system.
Although there is little published or peer-reviewed evidence for the effectiveness of video consultations over other means, a firmly pointed finger is aimed at a ‘visual upgrade’, improved effectiveness, safety, and high satisfaction in patients and healthcare providers. When COVID struck, many clinicians turned to video to reduce patient flow through healthcare facilities and limit infectious exposures. Not only that, but those clinicians who were themselves at risk of becoming unwell due to the virus were able to self-isolate and shield, yet still continue to provide medical care and vital support to practices. A big win for tech and video!
How much has the landscape of primary and secondary care changed indefinitely? Will we ever see doctors’ surgeries in the same way? Will I ever hear my name beep on the waiting room screen again?
Is this change better than the traditional approach to doctors’ appointments, or even a good thing at all?
As with anything, I think it depends what you make of it. Of course we all want to see each other in person again and more frequently like the ‘olden days’, and we will. For now however, we need to adapt, think big, and save lives.
From my experience deploying video consultation programmes in a variety of healthcare settings for nearly 3 years, it is clear to see that, regardless of a worldwide pandemic, video is superior when conducting things like MDT meetings, long-term condition reviews, triage, virtual ward rounds, and much more. Saving clinical time is a must.
Not only this, but patients still generally feel more confident having been ‘seen’ by a GP and not just ‘heard’. Let’s try keep things as normal as possible by using video instead of telephone so we can at least see who we are speaking to. RCGP and NHS Digital found that fewer than 1 in 20 GP appointments have taken place via video during the COVID pandemic so far, despite equipment being readily available.
Would you choose telephone over video if digital was your only option to see people? I know clinicians are under pressure, but there is no time difference between a telephone and video call, so why choose the former?
I was speaking to a care home support worker last week and she said that she and her residents ‘always feel better having seen the GP instead of only heard over a speaker phone’, which makes sense to me.
Attitude, perception, and behaviour. We need to work together to shape a consistent and more comfortable approach to delivering care in these uncertain times for our NHS. I definitely feel video is a great place to make a start.
Following on from this, the use of new tech like digital stethoscopes and ECGs is phenomenal. Home care and care home assessments have actually been improved when monitoring digitally. Amplifying chest and heart sounds by 40X is like having the ears of an owl and seeing results like having the eyes of an eagle, plus you can share these results with other health professionals to have the brain of a super-computer!
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