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.