Patients outside a health centre in Palma, Mallorca

Patients wait outside the S'Escorxador health centre in Palma.

21-03-2021Archive

Between 65 and 70% of health centre appointments by phone result in there being a face-to-face appointment.

The system of phone appointment was introduced because of Covid as a measure to protect both patients and health personnel. This system is due to stay in place, but it will be modified so that it becomes one that can respond to patients' needs in a more flexible way.

At the start of the pandemic, the system didn't function properly. The IB-Salut health service had to supply health centres with a large number of mobile phones in order to make it function.

The number of phone appointments varies from health centre to health centre. In Santa Catalina, Palma, for example, up to 80% of appointments are by phone. But health professionals are aware that this can be to the detriment of overall care. Doctor Fernando García Romanos says that a phone appointment is one thing; care delivered by phone is quite another.

He adds that the centre's management is aware of the fact that there are too few face-to-face appointments and that not seeing patients can lead to misdiagnosis. "There are obvious communication difficulties and issues with interpreting symptoms. It's also impossible to assess body language, which is very important." The doctor suggests that patients are "very angry" about the system.

In Marratxi, Doctor José Manuel Valverde says that the centre has mostly gone back to personal appointments. Phone calls, he explains, have been useful in order to ascertain if a patient should attend the centre or not. There are minor issues for which face-to-face consultations aren't necessary.

The phone system has meanwhile placed the emergency centres under greater pressure, as many patients have been going to these because they are seen in person.

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