Dr Chris Mimnagh: Video consultations are not the best use of our time

I know part of what we do as generalists means that we want to do everything that we feel we should. It's our greatest strength and our curse.

So I was interested in the survey results on GPonline about how widespread our use of telephone consulting is, and how poorly taken up our video consults are.

Our practice has been teleconsulting by phone for three years, we've dabbled in video, but to be fair the video solution is clunky and not really working out due to the extra effort involved.

In a different capacity I do have access to a very successful video solution, and over the last year I've learned a lot about how to consult via video.

My biggest learning point echoes the results of the survey – video consulting is not a skill everybody needs.

Telephone consults mean we can listen, talk, type, think and look up details during the consultation. I think it's a straightforward adaptation of face-to-face consulting.

Adding in the screen means our focus shifts.

We are trained to communicate face-to-face, our consultation models are predicated on it, and our focus of attention is the patient. Separate with the camera and the screen and we have a non-existent rapport.

The video consulter needs to be able to type, have an awareness of where the camera is and techniques to engage and inform whilst still thinking in the third person about consultation performance.

The return on investment for many will be too poor – rather like me learning to do contraceptive coils or minor surgery, there are skills I do not need and there are skills I can only acquire with significant investment.

By all means ignore my thoughts, but here's my advice: do telephone consults, learn how, get good at it.

As for video – employ somebody else. Let's face it sooner or later the will be a GPWSITC (GP with a special interest in teleconsults) and they will be your best bet.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool and head of clinical innovation liaison and deployment at The Innovation Agency, the academic health science network for the north-west coast.

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