Returning to face-to-face appointments

11 October 2021 By Lorraine Gray

​Although digital solutions and virtual care played an important part in the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and slowing the spread of infection, many health professionals are keen to return to seeing their patients face to face. Although online consultations have many benefits and will not lose their place in the provision of care, patients and staff will have more autonomy over their preferred methods moving forward. The ability to build and nurture strong relationships with patients, as well as pick up on physical cues, is something that cannot be replaced by digital technology.

As we continue down the road to recovery, it seems that more hybrid models of service will be the norm. Healthcare professionals must adjust to yet another shift in service and may need to upskill or train in further areas to ensure they can continue to thrive in their career and provide excellent care to their patients. Healthcare staff need to make sure that they are comfortable providing optimal care in a variety of settings, as established norms and operational best practices are being revisited.

How to readjust to in-person visits in healthcare

Many patients who would have regular scheduled visits with their healthcare providers have experienced a disruption to their care due to the pandemic. Lots of home visits were cancelled so healthcare staff need to be incredibly cautious when picking up in-person appointments, ensuring they carry out a thorough evaluation of environments and vulnerable childrens’ and adults’ wellbeing.

Other factors to consider during the readjustment to in-person care are:

  • Children may no longer be used to having in-person appointments, so make sure your demeanour is calm, friendly and approachable.

  • You’ll continue to wear PPE in both an in-person and hospital settings which can be unnerving for some patients, particularly young children.

  • You’ll need to be acutely aware of safeguarding red flags when visiting children who have not been able to have regular check ups due to the pandemic.

  • Many vulnerable or shielding patients won’t have had much in-person contact or socialising during the pandemic, so it is good to bear in mind they could be feeling anxious or unused to social interaction.

  • Unfortunately, in some cases you will experience a deterioration in patients’ mental health and wellbeing, whether that’s down to them not reaching out during the pandemic, neglecting their care due to shielding or self-isolation purposes, or just from the negative impact the pandemic has had both mentally and physically.

  • With older patients you will find that some will have lost their mobility from being stuck indoors and may need extra care and attention to help get them moving again.

  • For some you may be one of the first human beings they’ve seen in a long time! This is when the 6 C’s of nursing come into their element - care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment and competence.

How to prepare for hybrid healthcare service models

Healthcare staff should learn to embrace virtual consultations while allowing face-to-face appointments to continue. Moving forward, patients will have more autonomy over their preferred method of care, whether that’s sticking to remote services, or face-to-face appointments, or a mixture of the two. Digitally delivered services present many benefits but in-person consultations must be available as an alternative when clinically preferable or desired by patients.

Healthcare professionals should remain flexible to these adjustments in care and learn to quickly adapt and seamlessly switch between differing care models. To ensure they provide the same levels of care to patients who prefer virtual consultations, staff should upskill and learn new tech and digital solutions to maintain continuity, as well as:

  • Learn how to evaluate what treatments are suitable to be offered digitally and carefully consider the appropriateness and safety of video consultations.

  • Be prepared to switch from video to a telephone or in-person consultation, depending on patient, or clinical factors.

  • Educate patients who may be unfamiliar with digital technology or are concerned that virtual consultations don’t feel like a proper appointment that it is an effective mechanism and if their concern is more serious, then they will be seen in-person.

  • Embrace both digital consultants and face-to-face appointments as they should complement each other, as there are benefits to both.

  • To ensure you remain productive, familiarise yourself with digital technology so that you don’t lose any time learning or grappling with new solutions.

  • Seek additional support if you feel you need guidance in certain areas, such as undertaking difficult conversations remotely and how to care for the most vulnerable patients.

  • It is important to remember that all digital communication with patients must be compliant with the UK’s and employing organisation’s data protection and telehealth regulations as they’re constantly evolving.

Although these shifts in service offerings can be challenging at times, they also present an opportunity for the healthcare sector to enhance the value of care for patients. Covid-19 remains a very real threat and the safety of staff and patients is paramount. When you’re thriving in your career and successfully navigating between virtual and in-person consultations, don’t forget to take care of your own wellbeing and safety and continue to love what you do!

If you’re looking for your next role or seek further support with how to adjust to shifts in patient care and successfully navigate in-person and virtual consultations, then we want to help. When you become a member of Medical Staffing, our expert consultants are always on hand to offer feedback and ongoing career advice so that you can continue to thrive in your healthcare career. Whether working in primary care or acute nursing, our skilled recruitment consultants are currently working on several opportunities and may have the right role for you.

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