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Older people most keen on using webcams to consult GP

18% of all patients would be happy to have a webcam consultation, and 22% of over 55s

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Almost a fifth of patients (18%) would be happy to have a GP consultation via a webcam on their phone or computer in any circumstances, a survey has found.

Willingness to have a “virtual consultation” is highest among older people, the survey of 2,000 people suggests. While just 7% of under 25s would be happy to have a webcam conversation with their GP, 22% of the over 55s would be prepared to do so, and most people would not rule out a consultation via webcam, the survey for Astellas found.

A further 41% said they would be happy to see their GP via webcam in some circumstances. Of these, 72% said they would be happy to have a webcam consultation to order a repeat prescription, and 71% would be happy to receive test results in this way. Two thirds (65%) of people would be happy to discuss a minor ailment via webcam, and six in ten (60%) would discuss an ongoing condition in this way. However, some 42% said they would only consider an online appointment if it meant they were guaranteed an appointment that day.

Face-to-face consultations were considered more important for embarrassing conditions. Only 18% of people would want to discuss a problem such as head lice or a rash via webcam.

The reasons given for not wanting a webcam consultation by the third (33%) of people who would not be happy to have one included that they wanted to discuss their condition properly face to face (70%), they needed a physical examination (55%), or they were concerned that a serious illness might not get identified if they spoke to their GP in that way (38%). Just 14% said it was because they didn’t have access to a webcam or the internet.

A survey of 300 GPs found that only 3% currently offer patients consultations via webcam, and only 36% plan to start doing so over the next three years. 

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