by Meimei Jim, community pharmacist in South Wales
Whilst I’ve always been enthusiastic to advance my practice as a community pharmacist, those who know and work with me would say I’m something of a technophobe. That’s why I was so surprised to find out recently that I was one of the main users of video consultations in my pharmacy to support patient care in Wales. The truth is, I really value the ability to offer this method of communication to patients from the community pharmacy and video consultations are now a key part of my daily work to supporting patient care.
Even before the COVID-19, virtual consultations were on the rise, with many healthcare systems using a digital-first approach. At the start of the pandemic, local GPs and other healthcare professionals turned to video consultations to make appointments more accessible and limit infectious exposures through their facilities. Now, technology has enabled clinicians who are having to self-isolate, or who fall into high-risk groups and require shielding, to continue providing medical care.
With all these advantages and opportunities, I was pleased to see the further rollout of video consultations in Wales and Scotland last summer. It’s important that we all grasp this opportunity to offer pharmaceutical care through another more flexible format, which may be easier to access for many.
I was enthusiastic about signing up for training to understand more about video consultations, and to explore how I could use the tool at our pharmacy. The training was comprehensive and gave me the confidence to offer video consultations easily, without adding to my workload. I’m now in full swing of using video consultations to support patients, carrying out around three consultations a week. I offer the option for all our services, but I find video consultations the most helpful for the emergency contraception service and minor ailments.
The system works very smoothly. When a patient contacts us, they are always given a choice of a video consultation. If this is their preferred option, a member of the team sends a link to their phone or email. When they access the waiting room, I also get a text notification which is handy. In future, I may explore other models, such as a drop-in appointment at certain times of the day.
The main benefit that I’ve found from using video consultations is being able to aid patient understanding of the information that I provide. Having a face on the screen, and recognising some non-verbal cues, often prompts me to provide further information or explain important information in a different way.
There can be some challenges. I have also experienced one or two consultations with barriers such as poor internet connection which have led me to switch to a phone consultation. But these are rare.
So far, the feedback from patients using the service has been fantastic. People have really valued the ability to talk about their health from their home, or other environments where they felt relaxed and less stigmatised. I have also noticed that people are generally more open, and more likely to ask questions.
My key message is not to be afraid of using video consultations – see it as an extension of a phone call. I’ve tried it and it’s become a key part of my work in supporting patient care.
Take a look at our guide to help you get started with remote consultations.