Video appointments win patient approval

Dr Joanne Watson, health and care strategy director for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Joanne Watson, health and care strategy director for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

Video consultations with doctors have been given the thumbs up by patients as Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust finds a 'new normal' way of working.

During the pandemic, doctors, nurses and therapists have had to find new ways to see and treat people safely.

One of the fastest-growing developments has been the use of video appointments instead of face-to-face, wherever this is a safe and effective option.

People who don’t need to see a doctor face to face for a physical examination are offered an appointment by telephone or video.

The use of video means health professionals can still see patients, listen to their concerns and advise them about managing their condition, without them having to travel to hospital, or worry about bus times, or find somewhere to park.

If someone need blood tests or X-rays before an appointment, these are offered as locally as possible to people’s homes, and doctors review the results before seeing people in a ‘virtual clinic’.

The ‘attend anywhere’ technology even allows for a real receptionist to show people into a virtual waiting room, so they know they are in the right clinic.

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Staff at Torbay Hospital have recently carried out a survey to find out about people’s experience of video consultations, across a wide range of services including: physiotherapy and pain management, cancer, gynaecology, drug and alcohol services, diabetes, neurology, psychology, stroke, rheumatology, speech and language therapy, children’s services and chest clinic.

More than 1,000 people from all age groups were asked a range of questions after their appointment, including:

  • how easy it was to join the video call
  • whether they were able to communicate everything they needed to
  • their experience of how the doctor or healthcare professional listened to them
  • whether they felt involved in decisions about their care
  • whether they would be happy to use video consultation again.

The number of respondents to each question varied from 925 to 1,125 and people’s  experience was overwhelmingly positive:

  • almost 90 per cent of people who responded found it easy or very easy to join the call
  • over 85 per cent rated their video experience as high or very high quality
  • over 90 per cent felt their needs were well or very well met
  • more than 95 per cent felt that the healthcare professional listened to them
  • 93 per cent of people would be happy to use video consultation again.

There are still some issues that the team need to work on: a few people experienced technical problems, such as with connecting to their appointment, sound or picture lag and some people had to wait too long.

Dr Joanne Watson, who worked on Torbay Hospital’s Covid-19 ward and is also health and care strategy director for Torbay and South Devon, said: “Video consultation is a really good option for people who don’t need to see a doctor face to face for a physical examination.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for people to access services in future, and this is going to be part of our new ‘normal’ way of working, so I’m really pleased that people had such positive experiences.

"We will use their feedback to keep improving the service as we develop and roll it out more widely.”