This study in the journal Rheumatology looked at the experience and views of rheumatology patients and clinicians regarding telemedicine. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced a rapid transition towards telephone consultations, but there are still many research gaps in understanding the safety and acceptability of telemedicine.
The authors of the study conducted surveys and interviews with patients and clinicians between April and July 2021. The majority of patients were from the UK and had inflammatory arthritis or lupus. The study found the following:
- Patients and clinicians rated telemedicine as worse than face-to-face consultations in almost all categories, although >60% found it more convenient.
- 93% of clinicians and 86% of patients rated telemedicine as worse than face-to-face for assessment accuracy.
- Building trusting medical relationships was a great concern.
- Telemedicine was perceived to have increased misdiagnoses, inequalities and barriers to accessing care.
- Participants reported highly disparate telemedicine delivery and responsiveness from primary and secondary care.
- Although rheumatology clinicians highlighted the importance of a quick response to flaring patients, only 55% of patients were confident that their rheumatology department would respond within 48 hours.
The study concludes that although some negative experiences may have been due to the pandemic rather than telemedicine itself, there is still a strong preference for face-to-face consultations in rheumatology. This is because of the high risk of greater diagnostic inaccuracies when using telephone consultations.