New study seeks to evaluate the impacts of remote consultations on NHS clinicians
25 October 2021
A new NIHR ARC West research project aims to understand the positive and negative impacts of digital health tools and alternatives to face-to-face consultations may have on clinicians.
The drive for the NHS to use digital technology was a major focus in the government’s long-term plan before the pandemic. This plan committed GP practices to offer online consultations from April 2020 and video consultations from April 2021. Policymakers believed these technologies would improve access and have positive impacts on the quality and efficiency of healthcare.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the uptake of remote consultation options (phone, video or online e-consultations) accelerated. While the rapid implementation of remote consulting to transform NHS services is a great achievement, it is important to be understand the benefits and possible downsides. Despite the increased use of remote consultations, many questions remain about the long-term impact of remote consultations on service delivery, working practices, workload and staff wellbeing.
The project, known as Recon: Impact of remote consultations on workforce, seeks to better understand these impacts. It will use interviews with a variety of clinicians from across GP surgeries and hospitals to examine their experiences and views, capturing thoughts on to topics such as flexible working, concerns over risk of harm to patients, staff morale and any lessons learnt with regard to infrastructure and training.
Dr Christalla Pithara-McKeown, Senior Research Associate on the project said:
“The use of digital technology for remote consultations is promoted as having the potential to improve delivery of care, but the consequences of remote consultations on clinicians are not well understood.
“Doing this work will allow us to raise awareness of the impacts of remote consultations on the workforce, and inform guidance of how future digital health interventions should be implemented in a way that is efficient, effective and fit for purpose. Understanding the impacts of remote consultations is vital to ensure they are delivered in a way that maximises benefit and prevents harm.”