Intended for healthcare professionals


Video consultations for covid-19

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 12 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m998

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  1. Trisha Greenhalgh, professor1,
  2. Joe Wherton, researcher1,
  3. Sara Shaw, associate professor1,
  4. Clare Morrison, quality improvement lead2
  1. 1Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Technology Enabled Care Programme, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, UK
  3. Correspondence to: T Greenhalgh

An opportunity in a crisis?

The rapid spread of covid-19, and the fact that healthcare facilities could be sources of contagion, has focused attention on new models of care that avoid face-to-face contact between clinician and patient. There has been particular interest in video consultations, which are already being rolled out in many countries as part of national digital health strategies.123 How appropriate are video consultations for dealing with the coronavirus crisis—and what are the challenges of scaling up this model at speed?

Randomised trials (most of which were underpowered) have shown that clinical consultations conducted through a video link tend to be associated with high satisfaction among patients and staff; no difference in disease progression; no substantial difference in service use; and lower transaction costs compared with traditional clinic based care.4567 However, almost all this evidence pertains to highly selected samples of hospital outpatients with chronic, stable conditions and is largely irrelevant to the current escalating situation involving patients with an acute and potentially serious illness.

Organisational case studies have shown that introducing video consultations is a complex change that disrupts long established processes and routines.891011 Some clinicians express concerns about technical and clinical quality, privacy, safety, and …

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