Scaling up the use of remote consultations for COVID-19: addressing barriers of equity and patient acceptance
The current pandemic is an important reminder of the importance of using video technology and virtual consultations to deliver care at a time when face-to-face consultations are risky. But for virtual consultations to be effective as part of an emergency response, it first needs to become a routinely used part of our health system. Hence, it is time to step back and ask why virtual consultations are not mainstreamed and what the key requirements are for this to occur. As remote consultations can drastically change the way healthcare consultations are conducted, there is an imperative need to monitor and support patient adoption of this technology so as to better implement it across healthcare services on a wider scale. It is worth noting that although COVID-19 can affect anyone, it has a disproportionate impact on the old, the poor and those from Black and minority ethnic groups.
To identify and develop methods to overcome patient-level inequities in scaling up virtual consultations using a mixed-methods approach, I will focus in particular on specific groups which have to date shown limited uptake of video consultation services (BAME groups, low-income groups and older people), and especially on the intersectionality between the three key determinants of ethnicity, poverty and age. My research question is: what are the barriers to remote consultations for those with low uptake (especially BAME, low-income, and older people) and how can we work in partnership with patients and the public to help overcome these?