Recent research led by Liam Caffrey et al. from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health has proven the role of video consultations (VC) in achieving superior or equivalent clinical outcomes compared to telephone consultations (TC). Published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, this systematic review analysed nearly 80 studies across 23 clinical specialties, highlighting the advantages of VC in various healthcare contexts.

Key Areas Where VC were rated more effective:

1. Neurological Assessments: In acute stroke management and other neurological assessments, VC has proven more effective, with significantly higher decision-making accuracy (98% for VC vs. 82% for TC in one study).

2. Obesity Management: VC shows promise in nutrition and dietetics clinics for obesity management. Patients receiving VC experienced greater reductions in body weight, body fat, and waist circumference compared to those receiving TC, highlighting the benefits of visual interaction in dietary counselling.

3. Aged Care: For older adults, particularly those with dementia, VC contributed to improvements in quality of life and cognitive resilience.

4. Paediatric Care: VC significantly reduced anxiety levels in paediatric patients with congenital heart disease, indicating that the visual presence of a caregiver or clinician can provide reassurance and improve the consultation experience for younger patients.

5. Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy: In rehabilitation settings, VC enabled more reliable assessments, crucial for customised patient care plans. This is particularly true in stroke rehabilitation and for patients with spinal cord injuries, where detailed visual assessments are essential.

6. Cardiology and Emergency Care: VC has facilitated better outcomes in cardiology by ensuring higher initiation rates of guideline-directed medical therapies and has proven advantageous in emergency neurosurgery, where post-transfer outcomes improved with VC usage.

Clinical and Economic Implications

The review highlights that VC is clinically effective and economically advantageous despite the initially higher costs. The enhanced patient engagement and retention noted in VC contribute to more efficient care management and reduced need for subsequent acute interventions. These factors point to potential savings in the long run, which supports the case for broader VC adoption.

Recommendations for Healthcare Delivery

With 158 million of the 690 million MBS consultations conducted by telehealth, and GPs still conducting about 20% of their consults via telehealth, the integration of VC offers a viable path to enhancing healthcare delivery. This technology is especially important in settings where visual information is crucial.

Given the evidence supporting VC over TC, healthcare systems are encouraged to prioritise VC when appropriate. This shift can potentially enhance patient outcomes, streamline healthcare delivery and improve the overall efficiency of medical consultations.