GPs considered video consultation (VC) to be beneficial for psychiatric consultations where formal physical examination is not required but visual cues are important, and where the patient may be unable to attend the practice. That is the findings of a new study published in the British Journal of General Practice which has explored patients' and clinicians' experiences of VC through semi-structured interviews carried out in the primary care setting.
For the study, GPs in Lothian, Scotland were provided with VC equipment. They invited patients requiring a follow-up consultation to avail of VC using the Attend Anywhere web-based platform. Participating patients required a smartphone, tablet, or video-enabled computer. Following VCs, semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients (n=21) and primary care physicians (n=13), followed by a thematic analysis.
Participants reported positive experiences of VC. VC was seen as being particularly helpful for working people and people with mobility or mental health problems.
VCs were considered superior to telephone consultations in providing visual cues and reassurance, building rapport, and improving communication. Technical problems, however, were common. The study found that clinicians felt, for routine use, VCs must be more reliable and seamlessly integrated with appointment systems, which would require upgrading of current NHS IT systems.
Commenting on the findings, the authors said: “When integrated with current systems VCs can provide a time-saving alternative to face-to-face consultations when formal physical examination is not required, especially for people who work.”
However, for complex or sensitive problems face-to-face consultations remain preferable, they said.