An assessment of the feasibility of telephone and email consultation in a chest clinic

Patient Educ Couns. 2004 Jul;54(1):11-3. doi: 10.1016/S0738-3991(03)00166-6.


One hundred and sixty-four consecutive patients attending a busy respiratory outpatient service were asked how acceptable was the concept of alternating face to face consultation with consultation by either telephone or email. The patients were then assessed as to their suitability for such non-traditional methods of consultation. Thirty patients (18.3%) were not agreeable to other forms of consultation and five could not speak English. One hundred and thirty-three (84%) had a suitable daytime telephone number for consultation purposes, but only 34 (21%) had email access, with this being commoner in the younger ages. One hundred and five patients were not thought to be suitable for alternative methods of consultation because of: the severity of their condition, the difficulty of assessing it over the telephone, or because they needed to attend the hospital for investigations. However, even in a clinic where the policy was already to return as many patients as possible to the care of their primary care physicians, and in a clinic where much work was already shared with respiratory nurse specialists, over one-third of patients were thought to be suitable for alternating face to face with telephone consultation. The diagnoses in those cases included asthma, suspected obstructive sleep apnoea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), unexplained cough, and some patients with respiratory malignancy being visited at home by the palliative medicine services. However, for those with asthma and for those awaiting results of investigations especially, use of telephone consultation appears to be an acceptable and convenient way of reducing the pressure upon time available for face to face consultations.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Literacy
  • Electronic Mail / standards*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards
  • Health Services Research
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • London
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases / psychology*
  • Lung Diseases / therapy
  • Needs Assessment
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital / standards
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Selection
  • Pulmonary Medicine / standards*
  • Remote Consultation / standards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone / standards*
  • Time Factors
  • Workload