Health – The virtual visit

The way we visit the doctor is changing. Over the past year, in response to the global pandemic, virtual GP appointments have become the norm. 

As a GP, I love people. I love to learn from every patient I see, and enjoy every interaction. I am the first to admit that I was somewhat nervous when we were first advised we would be conducting phone and video consults. I am not particularly proficient at using technology, and I was wary of the limitations involved in using this media.

However, I went forward with an open mind, and I am now starting to enjoy this novel way of managing patients. Video consults in particular, are extremely rewarding. You can see a patient’s face (without it being obscured by a mask), and generally it is possible to assess things such as skin rashes, or discuss mental health concerns. The huge benefit to the patient is that they don’t need to leave home. Photos can be sent through to further aid the assessment of rashes, in particular. 

Most prescriptions can be emailed to the pharmacy, which means that patients do not even have to come to the clinic to collect these. If bloods are required, lab forms can automatically be sent to the laboratory, and patients can present to the lab for these.

Of course there are limitations to telehealth. There are times when a patient needs a face-to-face appointment. Acute presentations, such as abdominal pain or severe bleeding require a doctor to assess the patient in person. Virtual or phone assessment is obviously not suitable in these instances. Please be mindful of this when booking. 

To get the best out of your virtual appointment, whether that be phone or video, you need to prepare in advance. Try to limit background noise from other family members, TVs or animals in the house. Have your phone or computer ready before your appointment is due so that the doctor can easily contact you. Follow the advice you are given when making the booking.  

As with any doctor’s clinic, the doctor occasionally runs a little late. If you have not heard from your doctor after around 20 minutes from your appointment time, call reception to check that there has not been an issue with the booking.

Telehealth consultations have huge benefits. They are safe, user-friendly, secure, can be conducted from your home and offer a lot of benefits for the patient especially now when we are trying to practice social distancing and prevent the spread of infection. If you have any concerns about your health, if appropriate, please consider making a virtual consultation with your doctor.