Phone versus video: results from the latest systematic review

11 April 2024

A team of seven researchers from The University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health recently published a summary of clinical, service, and cost effectiveness outcomes in phone versus video consultations after systematically reviewing over 4500 abstracts and extracting data from 79 peer-reviewed articles. 

As telehealth use has increased since the pandemic, some debated whether video appointments create added obstacles or are unnecessary if patient issues can be answered over the telephone. Others argued the loss of visual information by phone actually compromises patient safety. The team realised both modalities had a place but realised healthcare staff needed better evidence-based guidance on when to choose one modaility over the other.

The article, titled "Telephone versus video consultations: A systematic review of comparative effectiveness studies and guidance for choosing the most appropriate modality" was published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, which is widely recognised as the leading journal in its field. The publication provides conditions where video should be used in preference to telephone, and is currently one of the "Most Read" articles in the journal over the last 6 months.

Video consultations outperformed telephone consultations in 50% of the published studies, reporting superior clinical, service, or economic outcomes. Around 35% of studies found both to be equally effective and only 4% favoured telephone as the most effective modality. 

Video consultations are beneficial for complex cases where visual examination or demonstration is necessary. This review supports the role of video consultations in enhancing patient engagement and retention, improving transfer and triage decisions, and reducing downstream health care use. Superior, if not equivalent, clinical outcomes for video consultations compared to telephone were observed. Further, despite higher incremental costs, video consultations were consistently more cost effective than telephone consultations in the analysed studies. To read the full paper, click here.

This research will facilitate greater evidence-based decision making regarding the appropriate use of telephone consultations versus videoconsultations.

See below for two graphics that summarise these findings: