Non-face-to-face consultations and communications in primary care: the role and perspective of general practice managers in Scotland

Inform Prim Care. 2011;19(1):17-24. doi: 10.14236/jhi.v19i1.789.


Background: Practice managers play an important role in the organisation and delivery of primary care, including uptake and implementation of technologies. Little is currently known about practice managers' attitudes to the use of information and communication technologies, such as email or text messaging, to communicate or consult with patients.

Objectives: To investigate practice managers' attitudes to non-face-to-face consultation/communication technologies in the routine delivery of primary care and their role in the introduction and normalisation of these technologies.

Methods: We carried out a mixed-methods study in Scotland, UK. We invited all practice managers in Scotland to take part in a postal questionnaire survey. A maximum variation sample of 20 survey respondents participated subsequently in in-depth qualitative interviews.

Results: Practice managers supported the use of new technologies for routine tasks to manage workload and maximise convenience for patients, but a range of contextual factors such as practice list size, practice deprivation area and geographical location affected whether managers would pursue the introduction of these technologies in the immediate future. The most common objections were medico-legal concerns and lack of perceived patient demand.

Conclusion: Practice managers are likely to play a central role in the introduction of new consultation/communication technologies within general practice. They hold varying views on the appropriateness of these technologies, influenced by a complex mix of contextual characteristics. Managers from areas in which the ethos of the practice prioritises personalised care in service delivery are less enthusiastic about the adoption of remote consultation/communication technologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Electronic Mail
  • Humans
  • Practice Management / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Remote Consultation / organization & administration*
  • Scotland
  • Socioeconomic Factors