Remote consultations conducted by telephone and video call have been increasingly used, particularly throughout the pandemic, as a way of removing the need for myeloma patients to come into hospitals and clinics.

Although some patients and healthcare professionals have found remote appointments helpful, there are also some challenges. For instance, these are some things patients have told us they found challenging:

  • Technology issues
  • Feeling rushed or not having enough time to ask questions
  • Missing the personal interaction with their doctor, especially if they have not met them in person at all, or if it is a difficult consultation
  • Not seeing other patients, or other members of the healthcare team in clinic – feelings of isolation
  • Not having paper copies of information to take away
  • Not being able to take their family member or friend with them as usual
  • More stressful
  • More difficult to discuss how they are feeling
  • Difficult to explain symptoms
  • Not understanding how to connect to appointment platforms because of jargon or unclear instructions

To help you and your patients with remote appointments, we’ve put together some tips to help you get the most out of this way of interacting with your patients:

  • Ensure that any invitations or instructions for joining a call are clear, simple and jargon free
  • At the start of the call check that the patient and anyone supporting them on the call are happy with the set up. Ensure that you can hear (and see) each other, they are comfortable, they have enough battery/signal, and they have a pen and some paper to hand to take notes
  • Patients are likely to feel a bit uneasy or anxious the first time they have a remote consultation. Reassure them that the consultation is just like a normal appointment and they can discuss everything with you as they normally would
  • If you are doing a consultation and you are not the patient’s usual doctor/nurse, reassure the patient that they can discuss everything with you as they would with their usual doctor/nurse. It may be reassuring to explain who you are, what your role is and that you are part of the MDT and are fully briefed on their case
  • Patients may be worried about increasing the burden on the NHS and so may be less likely to report new or worsening symptoms and side effects. They may feel it’s not worth bothering you with them or there’s nothing you can do about it from a distance. Remind them that you are there to help them manage and cope with all aspects of their myeloma and that they should report symptoms and side effects as normal
  • Remind them what procedure to follow if they have COVID-19 symptoms and make sure they know to contact you before the symptoms become very bad
  • Confirm with them what they should do and who they should contact if their condition changes between appointments, and make sure they have any contact details necessary
  • Try to assess whether the patient may benefit from additional help with their mental, emotional and psychological wellbeing and signpost them to sources of support (e.g. charities like Myeloma UK, Mind, Macmillan, or any psychological services provided by the hospital)
  • You or the patient may want to discuss advanced care planning. Ensure these conversations are handled sensitively and the patient fully understands the information and decisions made. You may want to refer them to the Myeloma UK article advanced care planning to help them understand more about this subject
  • To help reduce the spread of misinformation, signpost your patients to reputable sources of information about myeloma and COVID-19, including the Myeloma UK COVID-19 Information Hub
  • Confirm when the next appointment will be, who it will be with and whether it is likely to be face to face or virtual again

We have also prepared tips for patients to help them get the most out of their remote consultations in our video for patients. You might like to send this on to them.

Key points

What to confirm/check with patients:

  • Contact details for their healthcare team and out-of-hours services
  • What to do and who to contact if their situation changes
  • Procedure for treatment and care
  • When their next appointment is and whether it will be virtual or face to face

What to remind patients of:

  • Treat virtual appointments like normal ones
  • Report any new or worsening symptoms or side effects as normal
  • Report COVID-19 symptoms

Financial support for this educational material was provided by Pfizer Limited as an Independent Medical Educational Grant. Pfizer have had no input or involvement in the design, development and content creation of any resources produced.