Virtual conferencing & remote consultations
Published on: 27th April 2020 | Updated on: 2nd August 2023
Video or audio conference is a method of communication involving a live visual/audio connection between two or more people in different locations.
A remote consultation involves a pharmacy team member and a patient.
Video or audio conferencing can also occur between professionals from the same or another organisation.
NHSE&I Remote Consultations Guide for Pharmacy
NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) published a Remote Consultations Guide for Pharmacy Teams (2022). This aims to support contractors that are either planning to conduct or are already conducting remote consultations with patients. The guide is the result of joint working between NHSE&I, Community Pharmacy England, the Community Pharmacy IT Group (CP ITG) and other interested parties.
- the different types of remote consultation;
- when these should be considered as an option;
- how to test and update your processes; and
- how to conduct remote consultations.
Reflecting on the publication of the guide, Sunil Kochhar, community pharmacist, explained about how his pharmacy team had started using and benefitting from remote consultations: “Offering remote consultations is a logical step for pharmacy teams. Their use in my pharmacy has helped to reduce the number of ‘no shows’ from patients as well as helping my team to better schedule our workload. We started simple and allocated protected time for remote consultations, so that the pharmacist can conduct them uninterrupted. We set-up a digital appointments system to make the booking process easier. We’re now conducting more and more remote consultations every month and are not looking back. I would encourage more of my colleagues to take a step into the world of remote consultations, and the new NHS guidance should help them to do so.”
NHS have published a quick step-by-step guide aimed at NHS staff (pdf) which covers practical tips on running a video consultation. A similar guide is also available for patients (see the ‘Patient-facing comms’ section of this webpage).
Pharmacy teams using remote consultation should consider:
- the benefits with a strong and reliable WiFi connection;
- hardware (e.g. webcams, laptops mobile devices etc);
- software (see the ‘Supplier list’ section);
- training; and
- scheduling (e.g. whether consultations will be performed within set times each day and scheduled appointments be set-up, what systems are used to manage scheduled appointments?).
The NHS website video consultations webpage sets out for patient scenarios where video consultation may be used.
NHS guidance on ‘Video consulting with your NHS is a quick step-by-step guide for patients‘ (pdf) explains the benefits of a video consultation and provides practical guidance on how to start, have and finish a video consultation.
NHS Digital has highlighted guidance produced by the Information Governance Alliance (IGA): Using videoconferencing for service user consultations (pdf, version 1.0 updated 2016).
NHSX set out their position on video conferencing during the ongoing pandemic:
“We encourage the use of video conferencing to carry out consultations with patients and service users. This could help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is fine to use video conferencing tools such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime as well as commercial products designed specifically for this purpose.
The consent of the patient or service user is implied by them accepting the invite and entering the consultation. But you should safeguard personal/confidential patient information in the same way you would with any other consultation.”
NHS Digital maintains a list of systems have been assured and comply with the high standards set in the GP IT Futures framework (up-to-date solution options may be listed there).
Video consultation supplier
(approved by NHS Digital)
|Solution||Notes if applicable|
|AllDayDr Group||AlldayDr for pharmacy||–|
Solution 1. Rapid VC
Solution 2. Doctorlink
|EMIS Health||Pharmacy teams may try for free for 12 weeks|
|Evergreen Life||Evergreen Life||–|
|iPLATO||iPlato Remote Consultation||–|
|Push Dr||Online consultation platform||–|
|Targett Business Technology||RIVIAM Secure Video Services||–|
Many other solutions are also available.
When choosing a solution to use or test out you should consider:
- usability for your pharmacy team and for patients;
- will there already be patient familiarity;
- reputational factors; and
- data security factors.
All community pharmacy contractor NHSmail users have ability to access MS Teams, and are encouraged to download and test the use of the tool.
The NHSmail team previously upgraded pharmacy NHSmail accounts in late 2020, to further improve the NHSmail service including extra Teams functionality.
How to use MS Teams and tips
- Download the Teams apps on your computer and mobile devices.
- Encourage NHSmail using team members within the same pharmacy to download the Teams app.
- Use MS Teams as an audio / text / video communication tool for your pharmacy work and collaboration with NHSmail users within and outside of your own pharmacy.
Microsoft Teams includes some video conferencing functionality.
If you have queries about pharmacy usage of NHSmail Microsoft Teams please contact email@example.com.
Local commissioners in some areas may support video con initiatives such as:
- testing or roll out of video consultation services;
- provision of equipment or solutions that enable delivery of video consultation; and
- pilots to capture learnings, or capturing lessons from those pharmacy contractors who already offer video consultations.
Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPCs) which are incorporating video consultation into their service strategy can find information on this webpage and can also provide updates or ask queries to Community Pharmacy England’s Community Pharmacy IT Lead, Dan Ah-Thion.
Community Pharmacy IT Group (CP ITG) discussed at its June 2020 meeting that there would be a benefit with additional clarity about whether National Pharmacy Association (NPA) indemnity insurance covered video consultation.
NPA Senior Legal Executive confirmed the position:
“NPA indemnity insurance extends to cover video / phone consultations which either take place within the registered pharmacy premises or away from the pharmacy premises when undertaken by the Pharmacist. We expect Pharmacists and their teams to follow all GPhC advice and guidance in relation to delivering such consultations either within the pharmacy or remotely. Pharmacists must be cognisant of the added risks of undertaking consultations and prescribing remotely.”
See also: pdf version of this statement.
NHS Digital are seeking pharmacy contractor volunteers to take part with trialling the NHSmail Virtual Visits booking and consultation platform.
During the pilot the Virtual Visits tool will be able to be used to record face-to-face or virtual consultations. The tool is associated with NHSmail Microsoft Teams. It enables an interface that patients and pharmacy staff can use to arrange and carry out a consultation.
Prerequisites for community pharmacy team members taking part with the pilot:
- an active personal NHSmail account;
- access to shared NHSmail inbox;
- MS Teams is installed on computer or tablet;
- participation with the pilot instructions including the testing of the booking and consultation features of Virtual Visits;
- a computer or device with a webcam.
Community Pharmacy England is supporting the research because pharmacy contractors commenting on their IT systems and portals will help the development of more usable digital tools.
Participants will be granted access to the Virtual Visits platform and will be able to use the platform to comment on technical experiences, the setup process and usability.
Participants from across the pharmacy sector including those who do not always adopt IT early are welcomed. The research intends to help make the tool easy-to-use for any pharmacy staff member in the event of wider roll-out. This current stage of the pilot takes place approx Feb 2022 onwards.
How to get involved?
To volunteer to take part or find out more about what is involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Virtual Visits pilot’ in the subject title and please confirm your ODS code and pharmacy name. Community Pharmacy England will provide additional information or pass your information to the project team so that you can take part.
Information for pilots
Community Pharmacy England and NHS Digital worked on a guidance checklist for use by pharmacy team pilots, and can learn about the tool within this How does Virtual Visits work for pharmacy pilots factsheet.
Read more about: Pharmacy remote consultations.
If you have queries on this webpage or you require more information please contact email@example.com.
Getting involved: Community Pharmacy England and CP ITG would like to hear about your experiences and your views about use of video consultations to best service patients. Contact Daniel.Ah-Thion@cpe.org.uk, Community Pharmacy England’s Community Pharmacy IT Lead or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to feed in or take part with piloting or usage of video consultation.