Updated: May 13
A number of NHS and private GP surgeries, hospitals and clinics already offer the opportunity to have video calls with a Doctor e.g GP or Hospital Doctor, Nurse, Pharmacist or Counsellor via video call. However, the number of healthcare services offering video consultations, particularly across the NHS, is likely to increase. The software used by each Doctor will vary, for example, some require you to download a specific app on your smartphone or tablet, some require you to download software onto your PC or laptop.
Here are 10 tips to help you prepare for and get the best from a video call with your Doctor or other healthcare professional.
Note: In this article the term ‘Healthcare Professional (HCP)’ is used to cover Nurse, Doctor, Pharmacist, Counsellor or any other healthcare professional roles.*
Video consultations can not be used to assess and treat emergency conditions. Call 999 if you have symptoms of a heart attack (central chest pain that moves up towards your neck and down your left arm), stroke (face drooping on one side, difficulty speaking, weakness or numbness of one side of your body) or severe difficulty in breathing (can not talk or speak due to breathing difficulty).
1. Prepare in advance. Follow any instructions that have been provided by the healthcare service. Complete any questionnaire that you have been asked to complete beforehand. Test the video app if you have been asked to do so. If you have not been asked to complete a questionnaire, you can write a list of your symptoms, when they started any relevant information. Make a note of your temperature, pulse, oxygen saturations and blood pressure if you have a thermometer, pulse oximeter or blood pressure monitor. You can also write down any questions you have.
2. If you are driving when the HCP calls to speak with you, park up and stop driving. It won't be safe to drive and continue with the consultation during the video call so please tell the HCP that you are driving and ask them to call you back when you get to your home. To get the best quality of consultation it is generally better to be inside a building. This should give you access to sufficient privacy, a secure connection and proper light.
3. Have a pen and paper or notepad ready to take notes. You can write questions that you think of during the discussion or jot down instructions that you are given.
4. Ensure the room is well lit. This will allow you to be seen better by the HCP. You could consider being close to a window, having the lights on or sitting near a lamp if necessary.
5. Use a strong and preferably secure wi-fi connection . A strong wi-fi connection should allow you to see or hear the HCP properly and vice versa. A secure wi-fi connection should reduce the risk of someone hacking into or listening into your call from elsewhere.
6. Take your video call in a quiet room. This will give privacy to you and others around you (either at work or home). You want to avoid your partner coming out of the shower unclothed and walking into the camera view! Being in a quiet room will also allow the HCP to be able to hear you and reduce distraction for both you and the HCP. Unlike the physical consultation room, the HCP can only see the view immediately taken by the camera and won’t see anyone that is not within view. Therefore, it’s helpful to let them know if someone else is or will be present in the room with you (e.g. a relative, work colleague or kids). This means they can ask appropriate questions and avoid (unknowingly) disclosing sensitive personal information.
7. If you own one, have a small torch or your torch app nearby. This is by no means essential, it’s only necessary if you are seeing a HCP that will examine a part of your body e.g. a GP. It's certainly not worth the expense of buying a torch just for the video consultation. If you have one available, a small torch can be useful to help the doctor see better. The light can help with viewing rashes or inside your mouth. If you have a smartphone, the torch app on your phone will work well but if you are already using your phone to speak to the clinician or you are using a desktop or tablet use a small separate torch.
8. Keep your hands free. If possible, use a laptop, a stand or dock for your phone/tablet with a stand or dock or prop up your phone/tablet against a book or box (see picture below for an example). This will allow you to keep your hands free so you can make notes (if you want), point to areas of your body (if needed), hold the torch, fetch letters or medicines or hold your child for examination.
I have 5 of these at home; 1 in my kitchen, 2 in my living room and 1 in my office. They are so handy for chatting with friends, looking things up on the phone and watching videos. My husband has also bought one for his desk too!
9. Don’t be afraid to tell the HCP if you can’t hear them properly, if they appear to be looking in the wrong direction or any other feedback that could improve the quality of the video consultation. The HCP may not be used to performing consultations so instead of looking at the camera they may be looking at your face on their screen. This is likely to happen if they have a separate web cam. If you find this distracting don’t be afraid to let them know and politely ask them to look at the camera. You can also inform the clinician if you feel uncomfortable with using video at all.
10. Check your email or the messaging system (if you are using a dedicated app) around 1-2 hours after your video call has ended for any further information (e.g. written literature about your treatment) that your HCP or the administrative team has sent you.
The service will explain at the outset, when you should not use video for consultations. Video is not suitable for assessment of all medical problems. Even if the video call has started, please be aware that the HCP might not be able to treat or resolve your problem. The HCP may arrange to see you in person afterwards (e.g. to examine you), arrange to perform tests or refer you to another HCP or service.
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