(VitalNews.org) – A recent study has warned that patients being given remote appointments with their doctor could result in potentially fatal misdiagnoses being made. The research team, which included researchers from Oxford University, England, found that doctors speaking to patients over the phone or via video call faced a multitude of obstacles to making the correct diagnoses.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) faces a demand for its services that it struggles to meet, and some general practice (GP) surgeries have begun offering remote appointments instead of face-to-face appointments in an effort to fit more patients into a doctor’s schedule. The latest figures from England show that 71% of appointments are face-to-face, with 24% being made over the phone.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that one issue which negatively affects patient care is the lack of rapport between doctor and patient. When seen face-to-face, it is easier for patients and doctors to have an open and easy dialogue, which helps the doctor to explore any problems facing the patient more fully. The study also found that patients who were very young or very elderly, or who had multiple health problems or pre-existing conditions, were much harder to correctly diagnose without being in the same room as the doctor.
Sadly, this has resulted in dangerous health conditions being missed, with patients becoming gravely ill or even dying as a result. In one case, a woman in her 70’s called her GP’s office to ask for help while she was having difficulty breathing. The patient was told that she would be telephoned back shortly, but the receptionist was distracted by another patient in the waiting room and did not organize the return call. The patient, still at home, became more ill and died. In another incident, a 16-year-old girl died of sepsis when the doctor spoke to her sister over the phone and gave the incorrect diagnosis of glandular fever.
The study has advised doctors to offer face-to-face appointments for higher-risk conditions and to take patients seriously when they ask for a face-to-face appointment. It also stresses the need for doctors to make sure the patient knows what the next steps in their treatment are and warns patients to make it clear if they believe their health is deteriorating.
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