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Original research
Virtual online consultation platforms for secondary care: a review of the options


Objectives The primary objective of this paper was to independently evaluate the currently available web-based software options for virtual consultations in a secondary care setting.

Design Comparative study.

Setting UK.

Participants Web-based software options for virtual consultations in a secondary care setting.

Main outcome measures Eight predetermined measures of functionality were assessed including time to setup, availability of a diary system, ability to book appointments in advance, ability to send patient reminders, ability to add a second caller, text messaging functionality, need for the patient to download an app and web browser compatibility.

Results Nine platforms met the inclusion criteria for web-based standalone video consultation solutions. Four offered immediate access via an email address. Six platforms used an appointment diary system, with five allowing clinicians to see which patients were ready and waiting for consultation at any particular time. Four of the platforms had the facility to book appointments in advance and send appointment details via text message or email. Five of the platforms had the ability to add a second caller. One platform required the patient to download a mobile phone app. All platforms were compatible with Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge (Chromium or Blink versions).

Conclusions The uptake of virtual online consultations has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the National Health Service (NHS) has become a forced ‘early-adopter’. Many of the solutions do well to address the demand; however, more work is required for it to be embedded into routine service and fulfil the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan: allow patients more choice and flexibility in their care. It is vital that once normality resumes, research focuses on the outcomes of virtual online consultations, with focus on factors such as patient satisfaction, length of appointment, time to diagnosis and initiation of management.

  • delivery of health care
  • health services administration
  • health care economics and organisations
  • health care quality
  • access
  • and evaluation
  • health planning

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