The delivery of video group consultations (VGCs) during the pandemic helped address unmet need, however embedding them in routine care would require an overhaul of operational, infrastructural and clinical processes, according to a new study.
The research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, found that the majority of patients valued the human connection and increased engagement with their practice that group-based care helped deliver.
However, the implementation of it ‘required changes in operational processes, shifts in professional roles, increased collaborative working and staff capacity, digital and online facilitation skills, and availability of equipment and IT infrastructures’.
The study, funded by The Health Foundation, analysed interviews conducted between April 2020 and April 2021 across eight GP practices, and among NHS policymakers, programme managers and other stakeholders. The research also included observation of training and operational meeting, and workshops.
Though staff required training and support with the ‘complex change effort’, the study found that both patients and staff were supportive of VGCs continuing beyond Covid.
The authors said: ‘Despite implementation challenges, VGCs afford opportunities for increased access to peer-focused clinical care, otherwise not available face-to-face or in individual appointments.
‘However, with VGCs in their infancy and involving small numbers of patients, it is too early to draw conclusions on the extent to which they can be meaningfully embedded in routine practice. Further mixed-methods research is needed to understand how VGCs might provide value and contribute to re-configuration of care towards a more affordable, sustainable, and patient-centred model.’
They added that there was still ‘much to examine’, especially when considering how remote care is ‘evolving’.
The authors recommended system support to facilitate this new model, including funding, access to training and video platforms that were integrated into wider operational work at a practice level, as well as digital inclusion initiatives.