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Phone consultations ‘popular but may compromise patient safety’



By Lilian Anekwe

Telephone consultations are well-liked by both GPs and patients but may compromise patient safety more than traditional face-to-face consultations, Scottish researchers have shown.

A comparative study of telephone and face-to-face appointments found that patient satisfaction with both forms of consultation was high – over 90% – in both GP and patient groups.

But telephone consultations were also judged, by 19 GPs in nine practices who listened to and evaluated audio recordings from 106 telephone and face-to-face consultations, to be significantly less likely to meet the RCGP quality assessment criteria requiring GPs to ‘obtain sufficient information to include or exclude likely relevant diagnoses’.

Telephone consultations conducted over the phone were significantly shorter and included less data gathering, rapport building and counselling than face-to-face consultations.

Lead researcher Dr Brian McKinstry, a researcher in general practice at the University of Edinburgh and a GP in Blackburn in Lothian, concluded: ‘Telephone consultations may be more safely suited to follow-up appointments and care of long-term conditions where an initial assessment and provisional diagnosis has already been made.’

Qual Saf Health Care published online 29 April 2010.

Telephone consultations are popular but may compromise patient safety more than face-to-face consultations, researchers found Telephone consultations are popular but may compromise patient safety more than face-to-face consultations, researchers found