Sometimes face-to-face consultation with patients isn’t possible.
Video and telephone consultations - collectively, “telehealth” - help protect both patients and providers, preventing the spread of infection, particularly during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
MBS Online advises that "Videoconference services are the preferred approach for substituting a face-to-face consultation. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providers can also offer audio-only services via telephone if video is not available".
Telehealth enables GPs and other health providers to see patients remotely, so that people with symptoms can self-isolate. It is particularly helpful for patients with mobility issues as well as people in remote areas.
Download the PHN Telehealth Guide now.
Recommended video consultation system
Although many different video conference systems are available, the PHN supports the use of one video consultation system across all health services.
The Commonwealth government has provided funding for healthdirect Video Call - a comprehensive, secure and reliable video consulting service which follows the Australian Government cyber security guidelines and safeguards privacy.
healthdirect Video Call is free:
- until December 2021 for use by General Practitioners and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS), and
- until June 2021 for Allied Health professionals.
Other video consultation platforms may store call details outside Australia, which may put clinicians at risk of breach of privacy legislation without informed patient consent. See our Telehealth software comparison for more information.
When using healthdirect Video Call, both patients and health professionals can be confident that all video, audio, chat and shared screen activity is between patients and clinicians only and is fully encrypted.
Get set up to provide video consultations to patients
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Best practice video consultations
Video consultations most closely replicate the face-to-face consultation experience, providing the highest possible standard of care.
To ensure a constructive and worthwhile consultation, make effort to maintain patient trust, communicate clearly and engage attentively with your patient.
When booking a video consultation for a patient, make sure that you:
- Provide patient with video consultation information and fee details, including any out-of-pocket costs.
- Determine MBS telehealth item eligibility.
- Confirm that the patient is able to participate in a video consultation.
- Book a video consultation appointment, following our simple, one-page practice workflow guide.
- Review patient records and reason for appointment.
- Obtain informed financial consent.
- Ensure you consult from a private location in which your consultations will not be seen, overheard or interrupted. The only people who should be able to hear your conversation are the video consultation participants.
- Ensure you are well-lit - normal room lighting is usually sufficient.
- Avoid sitting directly beneath the light source if possible. Side-lighting works well.
- Be aware of incidental movement behind you. Ensure that you aren't sitting in front of a window to minimise distraction for participants.
- Familiarise yourself with the equipment and software before the consultation.
- Understand what to do if things go wrong, and how to fix basic problems.
- Know who to contact if you can't resolve any problems that do occur.
- Charge and test your equipment before the call.
- Run a test call or call a colleague to make sure everything works.
- Be mindful of current audio and video settings.
Making the call from a desktop or laptop computer
- Eliminate distractions and noises from your computer and surroundings, such as computer and mobile phone notifications.
- Try to ensure that software updates do not occur during video consultations.
- Only run the software you need to use while in the video call: this increases the resources available to your computer.
Set up the camera in a good position
- Use a professional/neutral backdrop and good lighting.
- Place the camera in a location where the participants stay within camera view.
- Position your web camera so you are looking directly at the patient at eye level, if possible.
- Keep the participants centred in the camera view.
Choose microphone and speakers based on location and environment
- Laptop microphones and speakers are adequate but be aware of echo or feedback during conversations.
- Headsets work well for single-person locations.
- Use a noise-cancelling speakerphone device when multiple people are sharing the same room.
- Position the microphone so that voices are clear and neither too loud nor soft.
- Join the video call with your patient in the virtual consultation room.
- Adjust your microphone and camera as required so that everyone can see and hear.
- Introduce everyone attending the consultation.
- Hold the consultation, applying the relevant professional standards, as you would normally.
- Wear appropriate clothing - dress as you would when holding in-person consultations.
- Wear neutral, muted solid colours where possible. Avoid patterns, stripes, dots, white and red, which can all cause distracting screen effects.
Be mindful of body language and behaviour
- Remember that the other participants can see you - act like they're in the room with you.
- Avoid raising your voice.
Have alternative contact information available
- Be prepared to contact other participants by phone if something goes wrong with the video consultation.
Focus on the call
- Assure your patient that they have your full attention, showing eye contact, positive body language and attentiveness.
- Do not check your email or phone while in a video call.
- Look at the camera when you talk, not at the screen.
Understand the subtle differences between meeting via video and meeting face-to-face
- There is always a small amount of lag in conversations. Be patient and allow participants time to finish speaking.
- Use the teach-back method to ensure patient understanding.
- When the call ends, ensure all video and audio equipment is switched off.
- Check the patient understands the outcome of the consultation.
- Update the patient record with your consultation notes as soon as possible.
- Organise follow up and supplementary resources, information, education and links required.