Virtual consultations with doctors are 'worse but more convenient' - Cambridge study shows

Dr Sabina Qayyum spoke to ITV News Anglia presenter David Whitley about the issue.

Phone or video consultations with doctors are "worse but more convenient" than face-to-face appointments, according to a new study by University of Cambridge researchers.

Patients regarded so-called telemedicine as to have "increased misdiagnoses, inequalities and barriers to accessing care".

But more than 60% found them "more convenient", according to a new analysis of telemedicine, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Cambridgeshire GP Dr Sabina Qayyum told ITV New's Anglia that there will always be flaws, but doctors should be able to make proper assessments virtually based on patients' history.

However, researchers surveyed 1,340 patients, the majority of whom had inflammatory arthritis or lupus. They also polled more than 100 clinicians between April and July.

"As the NHS develops a telemedicine strategy, we hope there will be a thorough assessment of the clinical and psychological risks and steps taken to mitigate those risks, as well as action to address the possibility of worsening existing health inequalities for those less likely to be able to benefit from remote consultations," Melanie Sloan added.

The findings, published in the journal Rheumatology, found that nine out of ten medics and 69% of patients felt telemedicine was "worse than face-to-face for building a trusting relationship".

Also among the findings was that many patients felt that phone or video consultations followed an impersonal "tick list" and felt more "rushed".

Both patients and medics both said that video and phone consultations were worse than face-to-face appointments in terms of "accuracy of assessment".

But more than six out of 10 patients and doctors said telemedicine was "more convenient", citing reduced waiting times, no traveling, and safety from infection as the main advantages.

Only 3% of clinicians felt telemedicine was overall better than face-to-face. The authors wrote: "The findings identified a place for telemedicine for certain patients, yet a strong overall preference for face-to-face consultations from both clinicians and patients."

Senior author, Dr Felix Naughton from the University of East Anglia, added: "Of greatest concern was the great variability in accessibility to care.

"Approximately half of all patients felt they would not receive a prompt response when very unwell, often citing increased barriers due to some remote contact and administrative systems that are not yet efficient enough to cope with the sudden move towards telemedicine."