GPs and patients raise concerns about telephone appointments

Rheumatology patients and clinicians have spoken out about phone and video consultations, deeming them less diagnostically accurate than in-person appointments. This comes alongside new research from the University of Cambridge and University of East Anglia.

In the recent study, 86 percent of patients and 93 percent of clinicians felt that telemedicine was less accurate than face-to-face consultations, with higher risks for misdiagnosis.

Some respondents raised concerns that online consultations may become overused as a cost and time saving measure, rather than in the best interests of patients. Health secretary Sajid Javid has blamed the lack of GP appointments as the catalyst for increased pressure on A&E departments.

Some patients might find telemedicine less accessible, such as those from disadvantaged homes without access to video chat and internet, as well as some elderly patients without the same level of experience with telephones and internet. As such, telemedicine has the potential to increase health inequalities.

On the other side of the debate, some patients find phone appointments increase their accessibility if they have limited mobility or sickness making it difficult to travel out for regular appointments.

The NHS has stated patients are able to see a GP in person if they choose, which falls in line with the research team’s conclusion which focuses on telemedicine’s acceptability and safety, suggesting it can be improved by training for clinicians, offering patients more choice if the scenario is deemed appropriate. With official data showing GP appointments rose by 26 percent in the month of September, there appears to be a balance on the way.

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Una Jones

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November 2021
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