Telephone consultations are a part of everyday practice, there is surprisingly little research on the subject.
To describe the variation of consulting skills within a body of telephone consultations in primary care, highlighting the performance of one method of assessing the process of the consultation — the Roter Interaction Analysis System — with telephone consultations.
Design of study
Cross sectional study of 43 recordings of telephone consultations with GPs.
One rural county in the Midlands.
Recordings were made of 8 GPs, purposively selected for maximum variance in one region of the UK. Forty-three consultations were coded using the Roter Interaction Analysis System. From the descriptive categories, six composite categories were compiled reflecting a number of domains of interaction in a consultation: rapport, data gathering, patient education and counselling, partnership building, doctor dominance and patient-centredness. Analysis of variance was undertaken to explain variations between consultations for the different domains. Comparison was made to findings from similar work for face-to-face consultations.
These telephone consultations feature more biomedical information exchange than psychosocial or affective communication. Length of interaction accounts for much of the variation seen between consultations in the domains of rapport, data gathering, patient education and counselling and partnership. Male doctors are more patient centred in this study. There is the suggestion of more doctor dominance and a less patient-centred approach when comparisons are made with previous work on face-to-face consultations.
Although the telephone is increasingly being used to provide care, this study highlights the fact that telephone consultations cannot be taken as equivalent to those conducted face to face. More work needs to be done to delineate the features of telephone consultations.
Keywords: communication, consultation, cross sectional study, Roter Interaction Analysis System, telephone, telemedicine