OBJECTIVE: Explore the experiences of patients and clinicians in rheumatology and cardiology outpatient clinics during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the impact of remote consultations on interpersonal dynamics. 

DESIGN: Qualitative study using semistructured interviews, conducted between February and June 2021. 

SETTING: The rheumatology and cardiology departments of a general hospital in England, UK. 

PARTICIPANTS: All clinicians and a convenience sample of 100 patients in each department who had taken part in a remote consultation in the past month were invited to take part. Twenty-five interviews were conducted (13 with patients, 12 with clinicians). 

RESULTS: Three themes were developed through the analysis: adapting to the dynamics of remote consultations, impact on the patient's experience and impact on the clinician's experience. The majority of remote consultations experienced by both patients and clinicians had been via telephone. Both clinicians and patients found remote consultations to be more business-like and focused, with the absence of pauses restricting time for reflection. For patients with stable, well-managed conditions, remote consultations were felt to be appropriate and could be more convenient than in-person consultations. However, the loss of visual cues meant some patients felt they could not give a holistic view of their condition and limited clinicians' ability to gather and convey information. Clinicians adjusted their approach by asking more questions, checking understanding more frequently and expressing empathy verbally, but felt patients still shared fewer concerns remotely than in person; a perception with which patients concurred. 

CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the importance of ensuring, for each patient, that remote care is appropriate. Future research should focus on developing ways to support both clinicians and patients to gather and provide all information necessary during remote consultations, to enhance communication and trust.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere070923
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Early online date30 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund: Evidence Based Policy Making theme.

Data Availability Statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The datasets generated and analysed in this study are not publicly available to reduce the risk of breaking the confidentiality of the study participants, but are available from the University of Bath on reasonable request.


  • Quality in health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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