Experiences of virtual appointments during Covid-19

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Derbyshire undertook research into people’s experience of virtual appointment during the Covid-19 pandemic.  From August to September 2020, they conducted 118 telephone interviews with residents from both Derbyshire and Derby city who had experienced virtual appointments, as well as those who hadn't accessed this type of appointment.

Virtual appointments did not work for many participants for a variety of reasons and at times were inaccessible to participants in specific groups who are digitally excluded. Participants that faced barriers during their attempt to access an appointment were less likely to have a positive perception of virtual appointments, even if the method of appointment was suitable for their needs. A seamless process for patients booking virtual appointments is vital to meeting people’s healthcare needs.

Effective communication amongst professionals and services as well as external communications to patients are key factors in virtual appointments meeting patients’ healthcare needs. Health providers should provide a clear explanation of their appointment process via their website, reception teams, and written communications.

Whilst there are some important considerations for people who might receive lesser-quality care because they don’t have access to technology, for others there were benefits of appointments being held virtually. For many people, it was far more convenient to access services virtually than having to attend in person and was felt to be the safest way to access services during the pandemic.

The option of patient choice regarding the type and method of appointment would have been desirable for many participants. Assessing a patient’s capability to access different types of virtual appointments would be a positive step in helping find an appointment format that suited their needs.

Services should acknowledge receipt of data submitted by patients, especially for receipt of photographic images with information of where the images will be stored and how the patient will next be contacted.   Services should also allow for patient feedback to enable patients to suggest continual and ongoing improvements to the software and technology involved in virtual appointments. Online booking systems were seen as an effective way to book an appointment by many participants but there were areas for improvement that the option for patient feedback could help to address.

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General details

Report title 
Experiences of virtual appointments during Covid-19
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Derby
Healthwatch Derbyshire
Date of publication 
Monday, 2 November, 2020
Date evidence capture began 
Saturday, 1 August, 2020
Date evidence capture finished 
Wednesday, 30 September, 2020
Type of report 
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Digitalisation of services
Patient records
Service delivery organisation and staffing
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Structured interview
How was the information collected? 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Not known
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not known
Does the information include staff's views? 
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.