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Patients prefer phone consultations over face-to-face appointments, finds survey

Patients prefer phone consultations over face-to-face appointments, according to new research.

Online consultation system provider AskmyGP looked at patient contact preferences for a GP consultation in the first quarter of 2019.

They found that among 213,000 patients from 21 practices, almost half (47%) chose a phone consultation in a clinical episode. 

This compares to 25% for patients who preferred face-to-face appointments, 28% for those who wanted to be contacted via text and only 0.1% for those who chose video consultations.

AskmyGP data analyst Steve Black said: ‘The data showed surprisingly low demand for video consultations, despite recent publicity about video access to GPs.

‘Remote access to GP services by message and phone, rather than traditional face-to-face appointments, is proving to be more popular among patients than we had anticipated.’

Dr Hugh Reeve, a GP in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, who has offered patients a choice between consultation by phone, secure message, face-to-face or video since February, said: ‘Our patients tell us they have found the new contact system excellent, saving them from taking time out of work to attend the surgery. For the practice team it means reduced pressure for appointment slots allowing us to improve our caseload management as well as our own work-life balance.’

Pulse reported last year that a Scottish practice signed up to the online consultation service after struggling to recruit new staff

Digital consultations are set to become an increasing focus for GPs, with the NHS long-term plan promising digital GP appointments for all.

Meanwhile, the NHS App, which allows patients to book and manage GP appointments, view their medical record and order repeat prescription, was rolled out by NHS England earlier this year following a pilot.