Patient experiences of an online consultation system: qualitative study in primary care post-COVID-19

Susan Moschogianis, Sarah Darley, Tessa Coulson, Sudeh Cheraghi-Sohi, Benjamin C Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background
Online consultation systems (OCSs) allow patients to contact their healthcare teams online. Since 2020 they have been rapidly rolled out in primary care following policy initiatives and the COVID-19 pandemic. In-depth research of patients’ experiences using OCSs is lacking.
Aim
Explore patients’ experiences of using an OCS.
Design and Setting
Qualitative study in English GP practices using the PATCHS OCS (www.patchs.ai) from March 2020 to July 2022.
Method
Thematic analysis of interviews with 25 patients and 21,467 written comments from 11,851 patients who used the OC from 9 and 240 GP practices, respectively.
Results
Patients cited benefits of using the OCS were speed, flexibility, and efficiency. Nevertheless, some patients desired a return to traditional consultation methods. GP practices often did not clearly advertise the OCS or use it as patients expected, which caused frustration. Patients reported advantages of having a written record of consultations and the opportunity to communicate detailed queries in free text. Views differed on how the OCS influenced clinical safety and discussions of sensitive topics. Some patients who struggled to communicate in traditional consultations often preferred using the OCS, and male patients reported being more likely to use it.
Conclusions
This is the largest in-depth study globally of patient experiences of an OCS. It contributes new knowledge that the patient experience of using OCSs can be influenced by previously unreported characteristics of the patient themselves, condition they consult about, as well as the design and implementation of the OCS in practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • Primary Health Care
  • General Practice
  • Qualitative Research
  • Remote Consultation
  • Online Consultation
  • e-Visit
  • Teleconsultation

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