New research as reported in The Times today suggests that the possible benefits to patients of online consultations may be outweighed by the limitations and frustrations involved.

A study reported in the British Journal of General Practice has observed that some GP surgeries have found that skype consultations are proving difficult to organise and can suffer from poor connections and picture quality.

There is considerable impetus for GP surgeries to take advantage of new technology to try to increase patient access to advice whilst reducing GP workloads.

However, the findings of the new study are supported by comments by the Royal College of GPs that ‘(online consultations) don’t necessarily help to alleviate workload pressures on GPs, or improve access to general practice service for patients.’

These findings add to concerns that the new ‘virtual’ GP smartphone services are cherry-picking patients, leaving the more complex cases to be supported through traditional face-to-face consultations, whilst, at the same time, removing capacity from the service.

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