COVID-19: Remote consultations
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some of your mental health appointments might be done remotely. This means that instead of holding a face-to-face consultation, your health team will speak to you over the phone or by video. Here, you can find out more about what this means.
This leaflet provides information, not advice.
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You must therefore obtain the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the information in this leaflet.
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In a remote consultation, your appointment will take place between yourself and a health professional on the telephone or through the internet. This way, you get almost all the benefits of a face-to-face appointment without the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19.
As well as having the option to have your appointment by telephone, there are several video-call options available to you, such as Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Microsoft Teams.
You will have a prearranged date and time for your remote appointment, just like with an in-person appointment.
If you’re not sure how to make video calls, a family member, friend or carer may be able to help you. If not, your health professional will find a way that works best for you. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has provided guidance to health professionals on how to do this.
Having your appointment by video has the advantage of allowing you to see the person you are speaking to, and allowing them to see you. However, a telephone conversation can often work just as well, and you may prefer this.
You may want to ‘test’ your equipment before an appointment, perhaps by calling a friend or family member.
Yes. The confidentiality rules that apply to face-to-face consultations also apply to remote consultations. This means that your information will be protected in the same way. For example, if your doctor or health professional wants to share any of the information from your consultation more widely, they will need your consent to do this.
Your health professional also has a responsibility to make sure that the technology they use for your consultation is secure.
If you wish, you can ask someone to support you during your consultation. You may also want that person to be involved in the consultation. For example, they may be able to provide more information, with your consent.
During the consultation, make sure that you are in a place where only the person or people you want involved can see or hear the conversation. If you are on a video call, try to avoid showing any sensitive or personal details in the background. You may also want to close the door to avoid any interruptions or distractions.
If you lose contact with your health professional during your remote consultation, try not to worry. This happens quite often but usually only for a short time. You can just wait for them to contact you again or ring them to find out what is happening.
You may find that, even when the technology is working, it is difficult to communicate with your health professional. If you cannot hear them clearly, just let them know so that they can speak more slowly, clearly or loudly, or adjust their microphone or headset. Using earphones or a headset can sometimes help you to hear better.
As with a face-to-face meeting, try to relax and tell your health professional as much as possible about what has been happening. This will help them to get a clearer idea of your concerns and how to help you.
If there is anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or distressed during the consultation, such as issues with the technology or a lack of privacy in your room, tell your health professional immediately so they can help find a better way for you to talk to each other. If you have chosen to have a friend, family member or carer with you, they can help you get the most out of the consultation.
If your health professional thinks that a remote consultation is not going to work for you, they will discuss with you the best way to get the care and support you need. This may mean having a face-to-face consultation, although you would both need to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Your health professional will be able to advise on the best way to do this.
Published: Sep 2021
Review due: Sep 2024
© Royal College of Psychiatrists