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Getting the most out of a remote consultation
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a shift towards health and social care appointments taking place remotely, rather than in person. Read our advice on how to get the best from these consultations.
A remote consultation is an appointment that takes place by phone or video call, or sometimes via email or online form, rather than in person.
They became the norm during the pandemic, when meeting face to face was unsafe, and many health and social care professionals have continued to offer remote appointments.
There are benefits to a remote consultation:
- Health and social care professionals can still offer you an appointment even if they can’t meet you in person
- the person requiring the consultation doesn’t have to attend an appointment outside the home – a process that can be unsettling for someone with dementia
- professionals may be able to fit more appointments into their day, reducing waiting times
- family members can easily join the consultation, even if they live in different areas
- you can often record the appointment and refer to it later – but tell the professional if you would like to do this
Sometimes, a face-to-face appointment will be necessary – for example, if a physical examination is needed, or if the person cannot communicate by phone or video.
You should still be able to arrange an in-person consultation by speaking to the health or social care professional, or the person who arranges their appointments.
When you book a telephone appointment, you should receive a text, email or letter giving you the date and time.
The doctor, health or social care professional will phone you for your consultation at the allocated time.
To get the best out of a telephone appointment:
- make sure you are in a place with a good phone signal
- put the phone on speaker so that you can take notes easily
- if the professional wants to speak to the person with dementia, keep the phone on speaker so that you can all be on the call together
- if you find it difficult to interrupt during a phone call, you could consider saying, “excuse me”, and if that doesn’t work, tapping on the phone mouthpiece to get them to pause
Video consultations can take place using a smartphone, tablet or computer.
They often use a well-known platform like Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams, but sometimes different apps, like Attend Anywhere, are used.
You should be told which platform is used and provided with a link to join the consultation. If you haven’t received a link by text or email the day before your appointment, contact the health or social care service.
These tips will help you get the best from a video consultation:
- choose a comfortable, well-lit, quiet and private space, with good WiFi or data signal
- check your equipment in advance: make sure the camera and the microphone work
- if the person with dementia has not used video calling before, you could do a trial run with a family member or friend to familiarise them with the process
- if you find it difficult to interrupt during a video call, you could consider raising your hand or using an ‘I want to speak’ card – see Sources of support, below
- your video consultation will be private and will not be recorded without your consent. If you would like to record the consultation, inform the health or social care professional
- you may also be able to invite other people who are involved with the person with dementia – such as family members – to join the video consultation remotely, by sharing the link with them, or in person in the same room as you
- Make notes in advance about what you would like to discuss, such as symptoms; changes in behaviour; medication; tests that you would like to arrange; test results
- Before the remote consultation, ask the person with dementia (if possible) what they want to get out of it and how much they want you to speak for them
- Before the appointment, or at the start, consider informing the professional of any communication tips that would help the person with dementia, such as explaining simply what the appointment is for; speaking in short, straightforward sentences; and avoiding open-ended questions like, “What do you think?”
- Inform the health or social care professional if you hold a health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA) that allows you to make decisions on the person’s behalf – see Sources of support for our information on LPA
If a telephone or video consultation is not suitable for you, then ask the person who arranges appointments if you can book a face-to-face appointment/home visit.
It may involve waiting a bit longer to see someone, but it should still be possible to arrange a consultation in person if needed.
If you would like to speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse about making the most of remote consultations or any other aspect of dementia, please call our free Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm; Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm) or email email@example.com.
If you would prefer to book a phone or video appointment with an Admiral Nurse, please visit dementiauk.org/get-support/closer-to-home/.
Dementia UK resources:
Practical guide to getting the best out of GP and other health appointments
Next steps checklist
Tips for better communication
GP online services
Lasting power of attorney (LPA)
Caring from a distance
NHS guide to video consultations
NHS guide to what to ask your doctor
Innovations in Dementia ‘I want to speak’ cards
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Publication date: November 2020
Review date: November 2022