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The last few weeks have given all of us a crash course in conducting telephone and video consultations, no matter what our previous experience. The Communication Skills team were ahead of the curve earlier this year, designing a pilot session for medical students in non-face-to-face consulting. GP Tutor Dr Suzanne Stewart describes the work she has done putting this new module together.

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Non-face-to-face consultations are becoming part of normal practice and medical education needs to reflect this. Several months ago I was asked to develop an online module and teaching session on remote consulting. This piece of work has been all about communication and collaboration.

I read around the subject, contacting many leading figures in the field. Without exception I received replies containing advice, support and resources. So many individuals extended a professional hand of friendship. I am indebted to colleagues in Edinburgh, Bristol and Warwick for this.

Dr Sara Shaw at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences has been delighted to collaborate and share resources from ongoing research in this area. Her colleague, Dr Lucas Seuren, has been enlightening. I have learnt about the importance of platforms and interfaces and about the damage that too much lag time can do to good communication. They are excited to see their research supporting education and, ultimately, clinical practice.

Locally, I have had the pleasure of working with Kate Saunders (lead for Psychiatry teaching). She has found some curriculum time in the fifth year and we will run a pilot soon, coronavirus permitting. Students will be asked to undertake an online module before the session to try to embed some core concepts and to get them thinking. The session itself will allow students to discuss the concept of non-face-to-face interactions. With the help of actors and IT they will experience taking part in a remote consultation.

Ultimately our pilot will inform how we move forward and develop this module. We hope to have it embedded in the curriculum from 2021 and see raised awareness of the importance of this area within the clinical school.

For more information on video consulting during the current Covid crisis, please see recent guidance in BJGP Life from Professor Trish Greenhalgh, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. 

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