A new pilot study has shown that patients consulting their physician via video could minimise the need for general practitioner (GP) visits.
Researchers at the University of Warwick conducted a pilot trial with 45 patients and six GP practices across Edinburgh and the Lothians. Consultations were carried out using a Skype-fashioned web-based programme called 'Attend Anywhere'. A video link was emailed to the patients which led them to a virtual waiting room at the time of their scheduled appointment.
People with chronic health conditions are most likely to benefit from video consultations, as they need to undergo check-ups quite regularly but do not necessarily require a physical examination during every visit. Younger patients favoured video consultations due to a better understanding of web-based communications. Individuals with limited mobility or mental health issues found video consultation to be particularly beneficial.
Doctors reported that video consultations allowed them to retrieve visual cues such as body language and facial expressions, which are often useful during evaluation. However, both physicians and patients agreed that face-to-face visits were more appropriate in certain circumstances, such as discussing personal problems and serious health issues or communicating unpleasant news.
Dr Helen Atherton from the Warwick Medical School said: "Video consultations were superior to a telephone consultation, providing visual cues and building rapport. However, it is clear that to get the most out of this type of consultation there are infrastructure hurdles yet to be overcome."