GP video consultations can be a change for the good, but only if done for the right reasons, and with the right patients at the right time. This was highlighted in a recent study published by the British Journal of General Practice, which looked at the acceptability and challenges of video consulting in primary care.
The study showed that - as with any innovation - the people, process and technology need to adapt to address this growing demand. Patients and professionals may have to adapt their communication styles, to take account of new visual cues. The slot-based process for appointments can create a jarring waiting experience, if a GP cannot make a pre-selected time.
The technology needs to evolve, although there are some caveats about the experience described above. Notably, many practices are seeing the benefits of combining telephony and video traffic using the same ‘pipe’, avoiding the need for wifi upgrades. For others, the arrival of HSCN removes the old N3 connectivity issues. Video can now be played directly into modern browsers, reducing the need for additional downloads.
However, as the study notes, for video consultation to gain ground, it should be as seamless and integrated as possible.
After all, this is just one way in which patients and professionals can - and want to - interact.
GPs should be able to switch between phone and video consultation quickly and easily, via their phone, laptop or other mobile devices, and do so in a way that is familiar to the patient. Resultant conversations should be associated with the patient’s record, providing simple access to insight to inform clinical and administrative decision-making. Connectivity should not be a barrier to efficient communication.
For many, the solutions are in place to deliver this now, and without the technology headaches that have been a barrier to digitally enabled primary care.
Many practices are recognising that this is not about choosing one form of communication over another; it is about choosing the right form of communication at the time. Phone, video and face-to-face consultations can work together, if the right approach is taken.
By seeing technology as an enabler for such a holistic approach to GP-to-patient communication, we can truly harness video consultation to support the delivery of excellent patient care.