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What do UK patients think about video conferencing their GP?

In both primary and secondary care, technology is being used to address the challenges that medical professionals face. There has been a steady introduction of innovative services, with 97% of patients in England now able to access medical records, book appointments, or order repeat prescriptions online. These types of innovations make patient care more efficient, convenient and personal – helping to enhance the relationship between patients and GPs – but introducing new technology isn’t always straightforward.

In particular, some GP practices are starting to offer patients online video appointments – this can have a real impact on efficiency, but are patients fully ready to embrace the technology? We’ve conducted a survey looking at the public’s attitudes to moving their appointments online.

We asked 300 people “Would you be happy to have your next GP appointment via online video, if it meant you could see your doctor quicker?” 54% of respondents said yes, and 46% said no. So we followed this up to find out when patients would most value a video appointment, and what concerns they might have about the technology.

When would a GP video appointment be most valuable to patients?

We found a number of scenarios where patients thought they would benefit from video conferencing.  23% said it would be useful when they needed a quick appointment, 17% said they would use this service when they just wanted some advice or reassurance, and 11% said it would be useful when they can’t take time off work to visit their doctor.

Responses also showed that patients would find this tool valuable when discussing a repeat prescription or seeking referral to a specialist. People with mobility problems would also be likely to use the service, as well as patients who don’t want to be near contagious people.

The top responses are shown below:

What concerns do patients have about GP video appointments?

There is always some level of scepticism to change, and overcoming patient objections to this technology is vital for its implementation - it’s important for GP practices looking to introduce video conferencing to understand patients’ concerns, and explain how and why the service is meant to be used.

“The doctor can’t physically examine me”

59% of respondents expressed concern about the lack of a physical examination. Of course, this online service does not replace traditional appointments - it simply offers an alternative way to communicate with a GP for the patients who would benefit from this form of consultation. A video appointment could be conducted in the first instance, for example, and if the doctor feels a physical examination is necessary, the patient would be asked to attend the surgery.

Privacy and security

39% of the people we surveyed said they were concerned about the privacy and security of an online video appointment. At Brother, we have developed OmniJoin – a highly-secure video conferencing solution designed for security-conscious healthcare businesses. With military-grade end-to-end encryption, host authentication, and multiple levels of meeting password controls, the software fully complies with the HSCIC guidelines. You can read more about OmniJoin’s security credentials here.

Image quality

16% of respondents suggested it was concerns about image quality that would deter them from using this service, but with superfast broadband coverage increasing rapidly, this is likely to become less of an issue moving forward. OmniJoin also offers HD video and crystal-clear audio; the only requirements are a broadband internet connection, laptop, web browser and web cam.

Below is a full breakdown of responses from patients who were asked “which of the following things, if any, would concern you about GP video appointments.”

Many patients would appreciate the option to have appointments via video, but healthcare providers need to ensure the technology is robust.

Whilst the face-to-face appointments will always be best in some cases, patients acknowledge a range of scenarios where video appointments might be preferable. We’ve developed a secure, cloud-based telehealth system, with a central focus on security and ease of implementation.

This software isn’t a replacement for traditional methods of consultation, but rather an additional service that can improve efficiency and access to care for those patients that require it. Our software can help save time and money whilst maintaining a high standard of patient care, benefiting GPs, practice managers and patients alike. You can find out more information about OmniJoin here.

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