Virtual consultations have been a literal lifesaver to NHS trusts and medical centres during the Covid 19 pandemic.
With social distancing being a key weapon in the fight against the virus, conducting patient consultations has ensured the continuation of regular outpatient appointments and consultations; but with virtually (no pun intended) no risk to either patient or medical professional. It’s also ushering in a new era of collaboration and efficiency between medical professionals. In fact, by 2024, the NHS is hoping up to a third of hospital outpatient consultations will be undertaken by video link.
Of course, virtual consultations are nothing new! They’ve been in use with the NHS for over a decade now, but with the Covid 19 pandemic exasperating long standing problems with growing waiting lists and the need to protect the safety of both medical professionals and patients, they’re now coming to the forefront of patient care and are certainly here for the long term.
While many patients and NHS staff are seeing the benefits of conducting effective virtual consultations, there are still people who are wary of them – and not without good reason, either…
Conducting a medical assessment virtually should be identical to when it’s done in a face-to-face environment. Patients and medical professionals should feel they’re getting real value from the experience; but the biggest barriers to this is when there are consistent, minor niggling issues – ones that may not seem particularly serious on the surface, but can mean that patients feel their needs are being overlooked or, at worst case, being misdiagnosed or ignored completely.
To help you get the best out of your consultations and to ensure an exceptional level of patient care, it’s crucial you look out for the potential warning signs of ineffective virtual consultations:
1. Your connection is consistently unreliable
Don’t you just hate it when your video… connection…… keeps…… buffering? Worse still, it can be infuriating if your connection is unstable and drops out completely.
Whilst unreliable connections may be a mild inconvenience whilst watching the latest cat videos at home on YouTube, they can be incredibly frustrating and off-putting for a patient when attending a virtual appointment.
An unreliable connection can also lead to vital information being missed, symptoms not being correctly identified and frustration on both sides! A wrong diagnosis or missed symptoms could lead to further delays for the patient and, in more severe instances, the onset of further health complications. To avoid this, ensure that your connection is reliable and that both your centre and patient have sufficient download speeds to be able to cope with video calls.
2. You’re unable to make clear diagnoses
When conducting a virtual consultation, it’s essential you can have a clear understanding of a patient’s symptoms – this is where having clear visuals of the patient is essential, and that means having a sufficiently high-res webcam.
If it’s the case that you or your clinicians are constantly failing to diagnose visual symptoms, it may be the case a patients’ equipment is simply not up to the task. Before a virtual consultation, make the point of finding out if a patient has a fairly decent camera that can clearly show any visual symptoms. If they don’t, a virtual consultation may not be the best approach and a face-to-face visit may be the best option.
This is where you may need to do a bit of research to find the best equipment to suit your consultations; if you’re dealing with more visual medical diagnoses, then an a good quality camera can be really beneficial. Luckily, there are plenty of consumer websites that can guide you on the most appropriate hardware choices.
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3. Lack of patient engagement
Virtual consultations are most effective when they’re a two-way conversation. A patient should feel confident their concerns or worries are being listened to and that a medical professional will offer the best care possible.
If a patient is failing to engage during a consultation, they may be feeling anxious about sharing personal information in a virtual environment, or they may feel their concerns are not being listened to or understood. Give them the opportunity to talk about what’s bothering them, listen intently to what they have to say, and always recap what’s been discussed and what the next steps will be.
4. Patients chasing updates or referrals
Following on from patient engagement, if your medical practice or hospital is seeing an increase in patients chasing up information on their treatments or referrals following their consultations, it may be the case your processes are not up to scratch.
Virtual consultations work best when they’re part of a consultation platform. Whilst you may be able to conduct an appointment over a platform like Skype or Zoom, you might be missing out on features like instant referrals or real-time data – features that come as standard with many dedicated consultation platforms that the NHS recommends.
For a full list of their preferred platforms and suppliers, just hit this link. Alternatively, give our Clinical Services Team a call on 01908 552 820 should you have any questions about the platforms and their capabilities.
5. Increases in administration that hold back appointments
Virtual consultations are vital in the battle against rising waiting lists and appointment backlogs; however, if you’re seeing an increase in the administration following appointments, you may need more specialist help – especially if your medical staff are working at capacity.
Outsourcing your virtual consultations, virtual clinics and enhanced triage assessments to a dedicated provider may be the best approach to resolve this. The provision of services for non-Covid 19 urgent services, routine non-urgent elective care and the delivery of diagnostic pathways will be critical to resuming normal operations, and there providers who can assist with all these aspects.
If you’re an NHS trust navigating the road to recovery, we can help you.
The resumption of normal health services in a post-Covid 19 world will mean all areas of the NHS needing to ensure their virtual consultation and non-urgent care pathways are operating efficiently. This is where ID Medical Clinical Services can help, with services that include:
- Bespoke insourcing services across all specialities for both elective care and outpatient services, including virtual consultations
- Adhoc and long-term capacity to supply locums across all areas of doctors, nursing and AHP’s
In the last 12-months, we’ve treated over 13,000 patients and IDMCS are immensely proud of our overall 97% patient satisfaction feedback score.