Patients now have the option to 'see' their clinician (doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional) by video or telephone appointments where appropriate.

Some people choose telephone or video appointment to:

  • save time and money by not having to travel to an appointment or take time off work
  • have their care closer to home when they feeling unwell or when getting to hospital is difficult
  • reduce the risk of catching or spreading germs

Here are some answers to common questions you may have about your telephone or video appointment.

When is a telephone or video appointment appropriate?

Telephone or video appointments are appropriate for some patients, some of the time. Your health professional will decide with you whether it is appropriate and safe to complete your appointment by telephone or video call.

Is a telephone or video appointment appropriate for me?

If you find travelling to your appointment difficult or are short on time, you may be interested in a telephone or video appointment.

For a telephone appointment you will need a mobile phone or landline.

For a video appointment you will need a reliable internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer. Even if you are not confident using computers, a carer or relative may be able to help you set it up and get started.

Is a telephone or video option likely to work for my condition?

Your health professional will need to decide whether it is appropriate and safe to complete your appointment by telephone or video. Research shows that in many but not all cases, a telephone or video appointment can be a safe and convenient alternative to a traditional face-to-face appointment. Your health professional will be able to advise whether your particular condition can be effectively and safely managed by telephone or video.

One factor to take into account is whether you will need a physical examination. In some cases, your health professional can assess you via telephone or video call, but in other cases you may need to attend your appointment in person, for example if you need an examination, test or procedure.

Can I choose a telephone or video appoinment?

We know from our patients that if telephone or video appointments are available, more than half of patients want to be offered that option. But because your health professional is responsible if anything goes wrong, the decision to do a helehealth appointment needs to be a shared one.

Is a video appointment safe and secure?

Video appointments are safe and secure. The same levels of privacy and security apply to telephone and video appointments as they normally would for in-person appointments.

As telephone and video appointments take place from your device, you play a key role in keeping yourself safe online. If possible, close any other applications or windows on your device before and during the appointment to avoid performance and security issues.

How much data will I use during a video appointment?

Video appointments use the same amount of data as you would use while watching a YouTube video (max of 1MB data per minute).

What do I need to set myself up for a video appointment?

Many aspects of video appointments are similar to traditional face-to-face ones, but the first few seconds are very different because you need to make the technical connection. This can be daunting, but once you are connected, things will become more familiar.

Here are some tips to get you set up:

How do I connect with my health professional at the start of the appointment?

At the time of your appointment click the Join video call appointment via Zoom link in your appointment invite email or appointment reminder email, or the link in your text reminder. You will see prompts to connect with audio and video at each step.

Once joined, you should be in the video waiting room ready to start your appointment. The health professional will see that you are ready and waiting.

How do I check the technology is working?

When you first connect via video, you and your health professional may want to check that everything is working well before you start. You might find yourself saying things like "can you hear me?" or "your face isn't clear".

If there is a technical problem (e.g. you cannot see or hear each other) try these suggestions:

  • type a message to the health professional using the text-based chat window (or see if the health professional has sent you a message)
  • if internet speed is an issue, turning off video might help
  • wait for the health professional to contact you by telephone

For more help with technical issues please refer to our Troubleshooting page.

If someone has helped me set up for video, do they have to attend my appointment?

If someone has been helping you to get set up, it is quite OK to ask them to leave the room once you are connected to the health professional.

As in a traditional face-to-face appointment, it is your choice who sits in on your appointment.

How will we start the appointment?

Once you and your health professional agree that the technology works, they will start the main part of your appointment, usually by saying something like "How have you been since I last saw you?" or "How are you feeling?"

How do I communicate during a telephone or video appointment?

Research shows that once the technical aspects of set-up are completed, telephone and video appointments tend to be similar to traditional face-to-face ones.

How do I let the health professional know that I'm listening during my video appointment?

You do not need to look directly into the camera on your computer, tablet, or phone. Looking at the screen is enough for the health professional to know that you are listening.

Because webcams provide a limited view, your health professional may not be able to see much beyond your face. It is a good idea to tell them who is with you or if things are happening out of view (e.g. "my wife has just come into the room"), so they know what is going on.

What happens if there is technical problem?

Telephone or video appointments can sometimes suffer from technical problems, (e.g. due to a busy network or sound delays). This can result in garbled talk, or blurry or frozen faces on the screen.

Having a good connection and equipment helps, but otherwise there may not be much you can do to change this. Basically, some telephone and video appointments may turn out to be less fluent than a in-person appointment.

You may need to repeat things or ask for clarification more often. If there has been a technical glitch, a good way to restart the appointment is to repeat the last thing you heard (or said).

It may help to make a comment about technical problems if they happen (e.g. "You are breaking up a bit").

How do I make sure I capture important information?

If the health professional is giving you important information, like about medications, ask them to repeat it to confirm you both have it correctly.

It is a good idea to have a pen and paper handy to note things down during your appointment.

If using video, you could also ask them to send this information via a short chat message so you have it in a written format.

How can my health professional provide a physical examination?

As your health professional will not be able to examine you by video, sometimes you may be asked to examine yourself.

Here are some tips:

How should I set up my room to help a physical examination?

  • Make sure your room is well-lit and you are not in shadow.
  • Make sure any equipment is in working order and that the batteries are charged.
  • The health professional may ask you to move your camera/device to get a better view.
  • One useful trick is to reverse the camera on your webcam when you do the examination so you see what the health professional sees.

What happens if I am asked to do an examination myself during a video appointment?

When you are asked to do an examination (e.g.  check your ankles for swelling):

  • Don’t rush. You are probably not a medical expert so it is likely to take you longer, especially the first time.
  • Ask the health professional to show as well as tell you what to do. They may be able to demonstrate on their own body. Don’t worry if you don’t know the official medical names for things; the health professional will know what you mean.
  • Think about how much help you want from a carer or other assistant. If the examination is likely to involve moving the camera to show a part of your body you cannot reach with your camera, another person may be able to help.

What happens at the end of a telephone or video appointment?

The final moments of a telephone or video appointment are usually different from an in-person one. In an in-person appointment, the health professional might stand up and accompany you to the door before shaking hands and saying goodbye. In a telephone or video appointment, you both need to find other ways to end your conversation. Here are some ideas:

What if there is something I have not understood?

  • Towards the end, the health professional will probably ask you if there is anything else you want to cover, and suggest when your next appointment should be. This happens in much the same way as in an in-person appointment.
  • It may be necessary to summarise or clarify things that were missed as a result of technical interference. In particular, make sure you are clear about medication and dosages and ask for confirmation in the chat window if necessary.

How do we end a telephone or video appointment?

The appointment ends when you click the Leave meeting button.

Don’t worry if you can’t find it – the health professional will close the session.

What happens after my telephone video appointment?

If you have gotten this far, you have probably completed at least one telephone or video appointment. Congratulations! Now let’s think about what's next.

What about follow-up activities?

After the health professional has finished talking to you, they will arrange various things like letters, blood test forms and other appointments if required.

Will I do my next appointment via telephone, video or in-person?

Before completing your appointment together, discuss with your health professional about whether your next appointment should be in-person or via telephone or video.

Take note of the health professonal's advice. Just because you felt the appointment went fine by video, it doesn't mean the health professional was confident that everything clinically necessary was achieved. If they are uneasy about another video appointment, ask why.

Will it get easier with time and practice?

It is likely that you will become more familiar and confident with the technology over time. So, if it seems strange or difficult for the first appointment, it may get easier for your following appointments.

Can I leave feedback?

We always value your feedback so feel free to share your experiences and views (positive or negative) about video appointments with the health professonal so that we can continue to improve our services.

We may also contact you after your telephone or video appointment to ask you about your experience. It’s OK to point out that things didn’t go well and suggest ways of improving the experience for other patients.

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