Telephone consulting is increasingly used to improve access to care and optimise resources. However, there remains a debate about how such consultations differ from face-to-face consultations in terms of content, quality and safety. To investigate this, a comparison of family doctors' telephone and face-to-face consultations was conducted.
106 audio-recordings, from 19 doctors in nine practices, of telephone and face-to-face consultations, stratified at doctor level, were compared using:
- The Roter Interaction Analysis Scale (RIAS), measuring the content
- The OPTION, that observes patient involvement in decision making
- A modified scale based on the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) consultation assessment instrument, measuring quality and safety
- Patient satisfaction and training (empowerment) were measured using validated instruments.
Telephone consultations were shorter: 4.6 minutes, on average, compared to 9.7 minutes of the face-to-face ones.
The study concludes that although telephone consultations are convenient and judged satisfactory by patients and doctors, they may compromise patient safety more than face-to-face consultations and further research is required to elucidate this.
Telephone consultations are more suited to follow-up and management of chronic diseases than for acute management.
McKinstry B, Hammersley V, Burton C, Pinnock H, Elton R, Dowell J, et al. The quality, safety and content of telephone and face-to-face Consultations: a comparative study. Qual Saf Health Care. 2010 Aug; 19 (4) :298-303.
Posted by Lola Martín
English version by Erika Céspedes