GPs need evidence to adopt alternatives to face-to-face consultation

GP practices need more evidence to persuade them to adopt new technologies in patient consultations, according to researchers who found 'general reluctance' among the profession to implement alternatives to face-to-face appointments.

A survey, published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), found that few GPs use alternatives to face-to-face consultations, despite coming under pressure from government policy to do so.

A postal questionnaire responded to by 319 practices found that two thirds (66%) regularly offer telephone consultations to patients.

Just 6% said they implemented email consultations, with 53% indicating that they had no plans to introduce this.

None of the practices were using internet video programs – such as Skype – to conduct consultations, and none had plans to do so. 

Online GP access

The researchers warned that such poor uptake among practices suggest that views on the pros and cons of alternative forms of consultation are likely based on speculation, rather than evidence.

Practices from urban and rural areas across the UK, including Bristol, Oxford, Lothian, the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, participated in the study.

Professor Chris Salisbury, lead author and GP, said: ‘The survey results show that, since few people are actually using email or internet video in general practice, views about the pros and cons of alternative forms of consultation are largely speculative and based on anecdote rather than evidence.

‘The general reluctance to adopt alternatives to face-to-face consultations means the situation is unlikely to change soon unless general practices can see clear advantages from introducing new ways of consulting.’

Photo: iStock

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