Patients now have the option to 'see' their clinician (doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional) by video or telephone appointments where appropriate.
Some people choose telephone or video appointment to:
Here are some answers to common questions you may have about your telephone or video appointment.
Telephone or video appointments are appropriate for some patients, some of the time. Your clinician will decide with you whether it is appropriate and safe to complete your appointment by telephone or video call.
If you find travelling to your appointment difficult or are short on time, you may be interested in a telephone or video appointment.
For a telephone appointment you will need a mobile phone or landline.
For a video appointment you will need a reliable internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer. Even if you are not confident using computers, a carer or relative may be able to help you set it up and get started.
Your clinician will need to decide whether it is appropriate and safe to complete your appointment by telephone or video. Research shows that in many but not all cases, a telephone or video appointment can be a safe and convenient alternative to a traditional face-to-face appointment. Your clinician will be able to advise whether your particular condition can be effectively and safely managed by telephone or video.
One factor to take into account is whether you will need a physical examination. In some cases, your clinician can assess you via telephone or video call, but in other cases but in other cases you may need to attend your appointment in person, for example if you need an examination, test or procedure.
We know from our patients that if telephone or video appointments are available, more than half of patients want to be offered that option. But because your clinician is responsible if anything goes wrong, the decision to do a helehealth appointment needs to be a shared one.
Video appointments are safe and secure. The same levels of privacy and security apply to telephone and video appointments as they normally would for face-to-face appointments.
As telephone and video appointments take place from your device, you play a key role in keeping yourself safe online. If possible, close any other applications or windows on your device before and during the appointment to avoid performance and security issues.
Video appointments use the same amount of data as you would use while watching a YouTube video (max of 1MB data per minute).
Many aspects of video appointments are similar to traditional face-to-face ones, but the first few seconds are very different because you need to make the technical connection. This can be daunting, but once you are connected, things will become more familiar.
Here are some tips to get you set up:
At the time of your appointment click the Join video call appointment via Zoom link in your appointment invite email or appointment reminder email, or the link in your text reminder. You will see prompts to connect with audio and video at each step.
Once joined you should be in the video waiting room ready to start your appointment. The clinician will see that you are ready and waiting.
When you first connect via video, you and your clinician may want to check that everything is working well before you start. You might find yourself saying things like "can you hear me?" or "your face isn't clear".
If there is a technical problem (e.g. you cannot see or hear each other) try these suggestions:
For more help with technical issues please refer to our Troubleshooting page.
If someone has been helping you to get set up, it is quite OK to ask them to leave the room once you are connected to the clinician.
As in a traditional face-to-face appointment, it is your choice who sits in on your appointment.
Once you and your clinician agree that the technology works, they will start the main part of your appointment, usually by saying something like "How have you been since I last saw you?" or "How are you feeling?"
Research shows that once the technical aspects of set-up are completed, telephone and video appointments tend to be similar to traditional face-to-face ones.
You do not need to look directly into the camera on your computer, tablet, or phone. Looking at the screen is enough for the clinician to know that you are listening.
Because webcams provide a limited view, your clinician may not be able to see much beyond your face. It is a good idea who is with you or if thing are happening out of view (e.g. "my wife has just come into the room"), so they know what is going on.
Telephone or video appointments can sometimes suffer from technical problems, (e.g. due to a busy network or sound delays). This can result in garbled talk, or blurry or frozen faces on the screen.
Having a good connection and equipment helps, but otherwise there may not be much you can do to change this. Basically, some telephone and video appointments may turn out to be less fluent than a face-to-face appointment.
You may need to repeat things or ask for clarification more often. If there has been a technical glitch, a good way to restart the appointment is to repeat the last thing you heard (or said).
It may help to make a comment about technical problems if they happen (e.g. "You are breaking up a bit").
If the clinician is giving you important information, like about medications, ask them to repeat it to confirm you both have it correctly.
It is a good idea to have a pen and paper handy to note things down during your appointment.
If using video, you could also ask them to send this information via a short chat message so you have it in a written format.
As your clinician will not be able to examine you by video, sometimes to you may be asked to examine yourself.
Here are some tips:
When you are asked to do an examination (e.g. check your ankles for swelling):
The final moments of a telephone or video appointment are usually different from a face-to-face one. In a face-to-face appointment, the clinician might stand up and accompany you to the door before shaking hands and saying goodbye. In a telephone or video appointment, you both need to find other ways to end your conversation. Here are some ideas:
The appointment ends when you click the Leave meeting button.
Don’t worry if you can’t find it – the clinician will close the session
If you have gotten this far, you have probably completed at least one telephone or video appointment. Congratulations! Now let’s think about what next.
After the clinician has finished talking to you, they will arrange various things like letters, blood test forms and other appointments if required.
Before completing your appointment together, discuss with your clinician about whether your next appointment should be face-to-face or via telephone or video.
Take note of the clinician's advice. Just because you felt the appointment went fine by video doesn't mean the clinician was confident that everything clinically necessary was achieved. If they are uneasy about another video appointment, ask why.
It is likely that you will become more familiar and confident with the technology over time. So, if it seems strange or difficult for the first appointment, it may get easier for your following appointments.
We always value your feedback so feel free to share your experiences and views (positive or negative) about video appointments to the clinician so that we can continue to improve our services.
We may also contact you after your telephone or video appointment to ask you about your experience. It’s OK to point out that things didn’t go well and suggest ways of improving the experience for other patients.