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      The Use of Patient-Facing Teleconsultations in the National Health Service: Scoping Review

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          The National Health Service (NHS) Long-Term Plan has set out a vision of enabling patients to access digital interactions with health care professionals within 5 years, including by video link.


          This review aimed to examine the extent and nature of the use of patient-facing teleconsultations within a health care setting in the United Kingdom and what outcome measures have been assessed.


          We conducted a systematic scoping review of teleconsultation studies following the Joanna Briggs Institute methodology. PubMed, Scopus, the Cochrane Library, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature were searched up to the end of December 2018 for publications that reported on the use of patient-facing teleconsultations in a UK health care setting.


          The search retrieved 3132 publications, of which 101 were included for a full review. Overall, the studies were heterogeneous in design, in the specialty assessed, and reported outcome measures. The technology used for teleconsultations changed over time with earlier studies employing bespoke, often expensive, solutions. Two-thirds of the studies, conducted between 1995 and 2005, used this method. Later studies transitioned to Web-based commercial solutions such as Skype. There were five outcome measures that were assessed: (1) technical feasibility, (2) user satisfaction, (3) clinical effectiveness, (4) cost, (5) logistical and operational considerations. Due to the changing nature of technology over time, there were differing technical issues across the studies. Generally, teleconsultations were acceptable to patients, but this was less consistent among health care professionals. However, among both groups, face-to-face consultations were still seen as the gold standard. A wide range of clinical scenarios found teleconsultations to be clinically useful but potentially limited to more straightforward clinical interactions. Due to the wide array of study types and changes in technology over time, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions on the cost involved. However, cost savings for health care providers have been demonstrated by the goal-directed implementation of teleconsultations. The integration of technology into routine practice represents a complex problem with barriers identified in funding and hospital reimbursement, information technologies infrastructure, and integration into clinicians’ workflow.


          Teleconsultations appear to be safe and effective in the correct clinical situations. Where offered, it is likely that patients will be keen to engage, although teleconsultations should only be offered as an option to support traditional care models rather than replace them outright. Health care staff should be encouraged and supported in using teleconsultations to diversify their practice. Health care organizations need to consider developing a digital technology strategy and implementation groups to assist health care staff to integrate digitally enabled care into routine practice. The introduction of new technologies should be assessed after a set period with service evaluations, including feedback from key stakeholders.

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          Telehealth Interventions to Support Self-Management of Long-Term Conditions: A Systematic Metareview of Diabetes, Heart Failure, Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and Cancer

          Background Self-management support is one mechanism by which telehealth interventions have been proposed to facilitate management of long-term conditions. Objective The objectives of this metareview were to (1) assess the impact of telehealth interventions to support self-management on disease control and health care utilization, and (2) identify components of telehealth support and their impact on disease control and the process of self-management. Our goal was to synthesise evidence for telehealth-supported self-management of diabetes (types 1 and 2), heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer to identify components of effective self-management support. Methods We performed a metareview (a systematic review of systematic reviews) of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of telehealth interventions to support self-management in 6 exemplar long-term conditions. We searched 7 databases for reviews published from January 2000 to May 2016 and screened identified studies against eligibility criteria. We weighted reviews by quality (revised A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews), size, and relevance. We then combined our results in a narrative synthesis and using harvest plots. Results We included 53 systematic reviews, comprising 232 unique RCTs. Reviews concerned diabetes (type 1: n=6; type 2, n=11; mixed, n=19), heart failure (n=9), asthma (n=8), COPD (n=8), and cancer (n=3). Findings varied between and within disease areas. The highest-weighted reviews showed that blood glucose telemonitoring with feedback and some educational and lifestyle interventions improved glycemic control in type 2, but not type 1, diabetes, and that telemonitoring and telephone interventions reduced mortality and hospital admissions in heart failure, but these findings were not consistent in all reviews. Results for the other conditions were mixed, although no reviews showed evidence of harm. Analysis of the mediating role of self-management, and of components of successful interventions, was limited and inconclusive. More intensive and multifaceted interventions were associated with greater improvements in diabetes, heart failure, and asthma. Conclusions While telehealth-mediated self-management was not consistently superior to usual care, none of the reviews reported any negative effects, suggesting that telehealth is a safe option for delivery of self-management support, particularly in conditions such as heart failure and type 2 diabetes, where the evidence base is more developed. Larger-scale trials of telehealth-supported self-management, based on explicit self-management theory, are needed before the extent to which telehealth technologies may be harnessed to support self-management can be established.
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            Real-World Implementation of Video Outpatient Consultations at Macro, Meso, and Micro Levels: Mixed-Method Study

            Background There is much interest in virtual consultations using video technology. Randomized controlled trials have shown video consultations to be acceptable, safe, and effective in selected conditions and circumstances. However, this model has rarely been mainstreamed and sustained in real-world settings. Objective The study sought to (1) define good practice and inform implementation of video outpatient consultations and (2) generate transferable knowledge about challenges to scaling up and routinizing this service model. Methods A multilevel, mixed-method study of Skype video consultations (micro level) was embedded in an organizational case study (meso level), taking account of national context and wider influences (macro level). The study followed the introduction of video outpatient consultations in three clinical services (diabetes, diabetes antenatal, and cancer surgery) in a National Health Service trust (covering three hospitals) in London, United Kingdom. Data sources included 36 national-level stakeholders (exploratory and semistructured interviews), longitudinal organizational ethnography (300 hours of observations; 24 staff interviews), 30 videotaped remote consultations, 17 audiotaped face-to-face consultations, and national and local documents. Qualitative data, analyzed using sociotechnical change theories, addressed staff and patient experience and organizational and system drivers. Quantitative data, analyzed via descriptive statistics, included uptake of video consultations by staff and patients and microcategorization of different kinds of talk (using the Roter interaction analysis system). Results When clinical, technical, and practical preconditions were met, video consultations appeared safe and were popular with some patients and staff. Compared with face-to-face consultations for similar conditions, video consultations were very slightly shorter, patients did slightly more talking, and both parties sometimes needed to make explicit things that typically remained implicit in a traditional encounter. Video consultations appeared to work better when the clinician and patient already knew and trusted each other. Some clinicians used Skype adaptively to respond to patient requests for ad hoc encounters in a way that appeared to strengthen supported self-management. The reality of establishing video outpatient services in a busy and financially stretched acute hospital setting proved more complex and time-consuming than originally anticipated. By the end of this study, between 2% and 22% of consultations were being undertaken remotely by participating clinicians. In the remainder, clinicians chose not to participate, or video consultations were considered impractical, technically unachievable, or clinically inadvisable. Technical challenges were typically minor but potentially prohibitive. Conclusions Video outpatient consultations appear safe, effective, and convenient for patients in situations where participating clinicians judge them clinically appropriate, but such situations are a fraction of the overall clinic workload. As with other technological innovations, some clinicians will adopt readily, whereas others will need incentives and support. There are complex challenges to embedding video consultation services within routine practice in organizations that are hesitant to change, especially in times of austerity.
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              The Contribution of Teleconsultation and Videoconferencing to Diabetes Care: A Systematic Literature Review

              Background A systematic literature review was carried out to study the benefits of teleconsultation and videoconferencing on the multifaceted process of diabetes care. Previous reviews focused primarily on usability of technology and considered mainly one-sided interventions. Objective The objective was to determine the benefits and deficiencies of teleconsultation and videoconferencing regarding clinical, behavioral, and care coordination outcomes of diabetes care. Methods Electronic databases (Medline, PiCarta, PsycINFO, ScienceDirect, Telemedicine Information Exchange, ISI Web of Science, Google Scholar) were searched for relevant publications. The contribution to diabetes care was examined for clinical outcomes (eg, HbA1c, blood pressure, quality of life), behavioral outcomes (patient-caregiver interaction, self-care), and care coordination outcomes (usability of technology, cost-effectiveness, transparency of guidelines, equity of care access). Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with HbA1c as an outcome were pooled using standard meta-analytical methods. Results Of 852 publications identified, 39 met the inclusion criteria for electronic communication between (groups of) caregivers and patients with type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes. Studies that evaluated teleconsultation or videoconferencing not particularly aimed at diabetes were excluded, as were those that described interventions aimed solely at clinical improvements (eg, HbA1c). There were 22 interventions related to teleconsultation, 13 to videoconferencing, and 4 to combined teleconsultation and videoconferencing. The heterogeneous nature of the identified videoconferencing studies did not permit a formal meta-analysis. Pooled results from the six RCTs of the identified teleconsultation studies did not show a significant reduction in HbA1c (0.03%, 95% CI = - 0.31% to 0.24%) compared to usual care. There was no significant statistical heterogeneity among the pooled RCTs (χ 2 7= 7.99, P = .33). It can be concluded that in the period under review (1994-2006) 39 studies had a scope broader than clinical outcomes and involved interventions allowing patient-caregiver interaction. Most of the reported improvements concerned satisfaction with technology (26/39 studies), improved metabolic control (21/39), and cost reductions (16/39). Improvements in quality of life (6/39 studies), transparency (5/39), and better access to care (4/39) were hardly observed. Teleconsultation programs involving daily monitoring of clinical data, education, and personal feedback proved to be most successful in realizing behavioral change and reducing costs. The benefits of videoconferencing were mainly related to its effects on socioeconomic factors such as education and cost reduction, but also on monitoring disease. Additionally, videoconferencing seemed to maintain quality of care while producing cost savings. Conclusions The selected studies suggest that both teleconsultation and videoconferencing are practical, cost-effective, and reliable ways of delivering a worthwhile health care service to diabetics. However, the diversity in study design and reported findings makes a strong conclusion premature. To further the contribution of technology to diabetes care, interactive systems should be developed that integrate monitoring and personalized feedback functions.

                Author and article information

                JMIR Med Inform
                JMIR Med Inform
                JMIR Medical Informatics
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                March 2020
                16 March 2020
                : 8
                : 3
                [1 ] School of Medicine University of Nottingham Nottingham United Kingdom
                [2 ] Department of Oncology & Radiotherapy Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust Nottingham United Kingdom
                [3 ] School of Medicine & Health Sciences University of Nottingham Nottingham United Kingdom
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Micheal O'Cathail mocathail@
                ©Micheal O'Cathail, M Ananth Sivanandan, Claire Diver, Poulam Patel, Judith Christian. Originally published in JMIR Medical Informatics (, 16.03.2020.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Medical Informatics, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.


                scoping review, telehealth, telemedicine, teleconsultation


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