Video consultations are not yet commonplace in Australian general practice, with telephony the dominant telehealth medium. As more patients and doctors become comfortable using video consulting platforms and realise the advantages of remotely delivered face-to-face appointments, usage can be expected to increase.
Video consulting facilitates comprehensive GP appointments, ensuring remote delivery of health care is still high-quality health care in appropriate circumstances.
healthdirect Video Call offers a range of practical advantages to patients, doctors and clinics:
Dr Andrew Baird is a general practitioner based in Victoria, with more than 30 years’ experience in general practice, rural medicine and medical education. Dr Baird is a strong advocate for the use of video consulting in general practice.
“Video is a new paradigm and GPs have not yet worked out where it belongs, as it is an alternative to in-person consultations. Video actually presents opportunities for GP-patient interaction which would not be possible in person or on the phone.”
“Video consulting is easy, especially if GPs use one of the platforms that has been designed specifically for use in clinical practice and is secure, such as healthdirect Video Call,” says Dr Baird.
Video consulting supports many disadvantaged groups to access health care, including people with mental health concerns, people with mobility issues, people who lack transport and people experiencing financial or emotional hardships.
“Video consulting may improve equity of access to general practice for many people,” says Dr Baird.
healthdirect Video Call provides an option to use captions for the hearing impaired or for transcription, and interpreters can be included in video calls.
Dr Baird believes that patients are more likely to keep an appointment when it is by video due to the convenience, accessibility and reduced transport costs. Some patients may feel more comfortable attending their appointment from home, rather than in a GP clinic.
“All Australians should be able to access a GP by video. It really is up to GPs to adopt the technology and make it available to their patients,” Dr Baird states.
Video consultations are the next best thing to having a patient in the consulting room. While they do not allow for a direct physical examination, they do allow the GP to observe and interact with the patient in ways not possible over the phone, facilitating a comprehensive consultation in a range of situations. Patient assisted examination, using equipment or physical movements, is also facilitated.
“The video consultation enables an indirect examination which can often achieve the goals of the direct, in-person examination,” says Dr Baird.
Video consulting allows rapport to be built with patients, much the same as with in-person consultations. The GP and the patient can observe and respond to each other’s gestures, facial expressions and non-verbal cues.
“Once you’ve been introduced to a patient’s dog during a video consultation, rapport escalates to gold standard plus", says Dr Baird.
Video consulting removes the risk of infection transmission for everyone involved when a patient attends an in-person consultation – the GP, the patient, clinic staff, other attending patients and people who would be encountered as the patient travels to and from their appointment.
“Removing the risk of infection is a critical consideration when treating vulnerable patients,” says Dr Baird.
For patients with, or suspected of having, COVID-19, video consulting removes infection risk by enabling remote assessment, management and monitoring.
healthdirect Video Call is simple to set up, and the patient flow aligns with the in-person appointment process. Using a device connected to the internet, patients click a unique link to enter a virtual waiting area. To begin the appointment, the GP simply joins the video call - this activates a secure consultation space.
During the video call, the GP and the patient can share and exchange documents, investigation requests, patient information and images. healthdirect Video Call has whiteboard and webchat features for sharing diagrams and notes – these tools assist in communicating health information to the patient.
Prescriptions can be delivered electronically to the patient, streamlining the prescribing process. Referrals to specialists can be sent using a range of secure clinical programs.
When the appointment is complete, the patient or GP can end the video call, or the GP can connect the patient with reception for payments, checking personal details and making future appointments. No record of the video call or patient data is retained after the appointment - healthdirect Video Call is a secure, private platform and all calls are fully encrypted.
“Video consultations are safe, acceptable to patients, and acceptable to clinicians. Their outcomes are equivalent to in-person consultation outcomes”, says Dr Baird.
Not all care given by GPs can or should be provided via video. Emergencies, a requirement for direct physical examination, a requirement for a procedure, no consent from the patient or an unsatisfactory audiovisual connection are all situations where video consulting is contraindicated.
Browse the rest of the Resource Centre for how-to information about healthdirect Video Call.