The Doctor Will Zoom You Now

Local Healthwatch in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay have taken part in a national research study designed to understand the patient experience of remote and virtual consultations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rapid roll-out of virtual NHS consultations. Working with Traverse, National Voices and Healthwatch England and supported by PPL, we’ve found out how these consultations are working for people, and how to get the most out of the virtual health and care appointments.

The study engaged 49 people over 10 days using an online platform, including our own Healthwatch Torbay Project Support Officer for Healthwatch Torbay Aleksandra Burckett, with 20 additional one to one telephone interviews. All participants had experienced a remote consultation during the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote consultations took the form of telephone, video or text-based communication. Appointments were for GP, hospital outpatient, follow-up and mental health consultations.

Recruitment of participants for the online platform was achieved through the Healthwatch network, with local Healthwatch such as Healthwatch in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay asked to identify people who had recent experience of a virtual health appointment.

The Insight report, released this week is available to view by clicking here

Its main findings are below and provides useful insights for NHS services and individual clinicians.

  • Remote consultations and the use of technology offer some great opportunities to make significant improvements to general practice, hospital outpatient and mental health appointments, but making the most of this opportunity means understanding the patient experience.
  • For many people, remote consultations can offer a convenient option for speaking to their health care professional. They appreciate quicker and more efficient access, not having to travel, less time taken out of their day and an ability to fit the appointment in around their lives.
  • Most people felt they received adequate care and more people than not said they would be happy with consultations being held remotely in future. However, there is no one size that fits all solution. Key to a successful shift to remote consultations will be understanding which approach is the right one based on individual need and circumstance. A blended offer, including text, phone, video, email and in person would provide the best solution.
  • Through this sea change there is an opportunity to improve the quality of care. By focusing on the needs of people receiving care and using a combination of communication tools we can create a more equal space for health care providers and patients to interact.
  • Health and care providers will need to adapt to a more blended approach to communication with patients in order to meet the needs of patients. To do this they need to build on existing good practice, and look beyond healthcare to other industries that are successfully engaging people remotely. This work needs to be done by the health service, and not become the responsibility of the patient.

For more information please click here

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