Phone consultations better for patients with long-term conditions

Telephone consultations are typically shorter than face-to-face consultations and could be useful for patients with long-term conditions, a UK study shows.

The research, published 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 also showed that most patients consulting by telephone for new acute symptoms are subsequently seen face-to-face anyway, the authors said.

But researchers believe the consultations are no less valuable than face-to-face consultations.

Telephone consultations are typically ‘mono-topical' and useful as 'a medium that could be used more frequently for the care of patients with long-term conditions,' researchers concluded.

The study suggest that, despite continuing concerns about the quality and safety of telephone consulting, it remains a ‘viable option' for improving access to primary care services.

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