A study in the British Journal of General Practice found there was 'little difference' between the two types of consultation, but patients were less likely to bring up other problems over the phone.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh analysed recordings of 123 consultations (72 telephone and 51 face-to-face) from 18 GPs in Scotland.
They found a 'low incidence of patients discussing self-diagnosed or treatment problems over the telephone or raising new concerns opportunistically at the end of face-to-face consultations'.
Further analysis showed most patients consulting by telephone for new acute symptoms are subsequently seen face-to-face anyway.
Telephone consultations are typically 'mono-topical' and 'could be used for the care of patients with long-term conditions,' the researchers added.
The study suggests that, despite continuing concerns about the quality and safety of telephone consulting, it remains a 'viable option' for improving access to primary care services.
- Br J Gen Pract 2010; 60: 341-7