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To what extent will telemedicine survive this pandemic?

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Our research findings prior to the pandemic were guarded about the potential of video consults:

Background: There is unequal access to health care in Australia, particularly for the one-third of the population living in remote and rural areas. Video consultations delivered via the Internet present an opportunity to provide medical services to those who are underserviced, but this is not currently routine practice in Australia. There are advantages and shortcomings to using video consultations for diagnosis, and general practitioners (GPs) have varying opinions regarding their efficacy.

Objective: The aim of this Internet-based study was to explore the attitudes of Australian GPs toward video consultation by using a range of patient scenarios presenting different clinical problems.

Methods: Overall, 102 GPs were invited to view 6 video vignettes featuring patients presenting with acute and chronic illnesses. For each vignette, they were asked to offer a differential diagnosis and to complete a survey based on the theory of planned behavior documenting their views on the value of a video consultation.

Results: A total of 47 GPs participated in the study. The participants were younger than Australian GPs based on national data, and more likely to be working in a larger practice. Most participants (72%-100%) agreed on the differential diagnosis in all video scenarios. Approximately one-third of the study participants were positive about video consultations, one-third were ambivalent, and one-third were against them. In all, 91% opposed conducting a video consultation for the patient with symptoms of an acute myocardial infarction. Inability to examine the patient was most frequently cited as the reason for not conducting a video consultation. Australian GPs who were favorably inclined toward video consultations were more likely to work in larger practices, and were more established GPs, especially in rural areas. The survey results also suggest that the deployment of video technology will need to focus on follow-up consultations.

Conclusions: Patients with minor self-limiting illnesses and those with medical emergencies are unlikely to be offered access to a GP by video. The process of establishing video consultations as routine practice will need to be endorsed by senior members of the profession and funding organizations. Video consultation techniques will also need to be taught in medical schools.


Jiwa M, Meng X. Video Consultation Use by Australian General Practitioners: Video Vignette Study J Med Internet Res 2013;15(6):e117 DOI: 10.2196/jmir.2638 PMID: 23782753 PMCID: PMC3713911

The geography of large and relatively underpopulated countries like Australia makes it attractiveto use increasingly cheap information technology to improve access to general practitioners. People are already using the internet to access many other services. However, there are some moderating influences on the use of video-consultations in general practice. These include technical limitations, patient confidentiality concerns, regulatory issues as well as the willingness of general practitioners to consult patients other than face-to-face. Theories predict that a relatively small cadre of innovative doctors are those most likely to try video-consultations for routine consultations. However, much will depend on research that demonstrates that video-consultations are unlikely to harm patients or increase the risk of litigation; on the scope toincorporate diagnostic equipment on home computers; on the financial incentives offered to doctors and on the public proclamations of opinion leaders on the question of video-consultations.

Jiwa et al Quality in Primary care

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

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