Almost nine out of ten patients (87%), and 94% of clinicians, said that video consultations should be an option, according to an engagement exercise carried out for NHS Near Me in Scotland.
The NHS Near Me video consultation service was made available to all community pharmacists in Scotland in June 2020.
“Advice and support” was identified by 88% of healthcare professional respondents as suitable for video consultations. Just under three-quarters (73%) said that “active management and/or treatment of an ongoing condition” was appropriate, and 66% agreed that “review of long-term condition management (including medication reviews)” was suitable.
Smaller numbers of healthcare professional respondents were comfortable with video consultations being used for “follow-up after a procedure, operation or hands-on care” (43%), “acute presentations” (33%) or “assessment before a procedure, operation or hands-on care” (31%).
Reduced risk of infection was identified as the primary advantage of video consultations by both patients and clinicians, with wider access to services and reduced need to travel also rating highly.
Although barriers to video consultation access were “overall, scored by the public and health professionals much lower than benefits”, some patients highlighted a lack of private space in which to take a video call as one potential barrier, as well as poor internet connectivity. Healthcare professionals identified the risk of poor quality sound or image/call dropping, and concerns about missing something on video, as potential barriers.
The report says that further work is now required to “maximise the benefits of Near Me”, including raising awareness of the service and addressing “digital exclusion”.
The data were gathered through a patient engagement exercise that ran from 24 June to 31 July 2020 and a similar exercise for healthcare professionals taking place in July and August 2020. There were 5,400 responses in total across a range of formats (written submissions, online, focus groups and phone calls), with 1,161 of these responses coming from healthcare professionals.
An online survey carried out as part of the engagement exercise received 1,125 responses from healthcare professionals, of whom 1.1% were pharmacists.
Jonathan Burton, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Scottish board, said: “Community pharmacists in Scotland have been very well supported to introduce video consulting into our daily practice. It has a number of different applications and lends itself well to consultations for acute conditions i.e. Pharmacy First services and public health services such as smoking cessation.
“I am using Near Me alongside telephone consultations, e-mail and face to face consultations with PPE to ensure patients continue to receive really good quality communication and care from the pharmacy and I’m sure pharmacists across Scotland are doing the same.”