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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organisations rapidly introduced remote consulting in an effort to avoid face-to-face contact and control the spread of infection.

Background

The ‘video consulting during and beyond COVID-19’ project, funded by The Health Foundation, is building on over 10 years of research on video consultations by our interdisciplinary team specialising in the study of complex, technology-supported change in health and care settings. This project is supported by researchers from Barts Health NHS Trust. 

The COVID-19 outbreak is now redefining what an accessible and technology-enabled health service is. There is much to learn. We want to understand how the COVID-19 crisis is influencing the rapid scale up and rollout of video consulting in NHS primary and secondary care and how this technology can be used to improve services and outcomes for all, including marginalised and underserved patients. Success is not just about new technologies but also about their clinical safety, how we make them work, and whether NHS infrastructure can accommodate them at speed and scale. 

This remote service is still evolving over the coming months and we aim to gain insights that can inform the development of sustainable and resilient service models for video consulting in the longer term and beyond the pandemic. Using a variety of methods, we want to do three things:

  • Gain an overview of the spread and scale-up of video consulting services in the UK NHS, including up-and-running examples of technological and service innovations; 
  • Share transferable lessons about rapid spread and scale-up of video consulting for national and local decision makers;
  • Generate insights to inform future changes in the post-COVID NHS, including strengthened national infrastructure for supporting video consulting services.

METHODS

  1. Review of evolving policy and activity data: connecting with key stakeholders across the UK from policy, industry, professional and patient groups. 
  2. UK-wide national survey of emerging video consulting services in health care from clinicians and non-clinicians. 
  3. Qualitative interviews with up to 20 patients and 40 survey respondents (up to 10 survey respondents in each nation across the UK, ensuring a diversity of sites, clinical settings, video consultation services and platforms e.g. Attend Anywhere, MS Teams). We will reconnect with a sample of survey respondents 8-12 weeks later to capture and reflect on changes over time.
  4. Seven locality-based case studies of (existing and new) video consulting services in primary and secondary care and including both patient-clinician and group video consultation services. In addition we will draw on emerging findings from a parallel UKRI-funded study, led by our team, on Remote by Default Primary Care.

These methods combine survey with qualitative interviews, virtual ethnography and analysis of documents and are designed to inform action research.

DELIVERABLES

  1. Overview of the spread and scale-up of video consulting services in the UK NHS, including up-and-running examples of technology and service innovations
  2. Transferable lessons for national and local decision makers 
  3. Insights to inform future changes in the post-COVID NHS, including strengthening national infrastructure for supporting video consulting services at pace and scale
  4.  Produce resources for patients, practitioners and providers that can support use and spread of video consulting as needed.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

  1. What is the new and emerging organisational, regional and national level context for video consulting in the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. How have video consulting services spread and scaled-up in the context of COVID-19, what approaches to spread and scale-up have been adopted, and what organisational, financial and technical resources are required to support them in the immediate and longer term?  
  3. What are the anticipated and unanticipated consequences of rapid scale up during the crisis, and how are these managed? 
  4. What insights can we glean from this time of rapid spread and scale up about supporting the longer term, post-Covid spread and sustainability of video consultations?

Principal Investigator:

Researchers:

Blog posts

Video consulting in the UK NHS – how far have we come and how far should we go?

Video consulting is now far from a niche service, here Dr Sara Shaw and Dr Gemma Hughes discuss the work of researchers in the IRIHS Group to understand how the technology has been deployed across UK health and care settings.

From famine to feast? Staff experiences of video consulting in the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic

Dr Gemma Hughes and Dr Lucy Moore write about current research on video consulting, led by Dr Sara Shaw, with funding from the Health Foundation.