Suitability of issuing sickness certificates in remote consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic. A mixed method study of GPs' experiences
AuthorBreivik, Elin; Kristiansen, Eli; Zanaboni, Paolo; Johansen, Monika Alise; Øyane, Nicolas Melchior Frederic; Bergmo, Trine Strand
Design - We used a mixed methods research design. An online survey with 301 respondents was combined with qualitative interviews with ten GPs.
Setting - Norwegian general practice.
Results - Most GPs agreed it was difficult to assess a patient’s ability to work without physical attendance for a first-time certification in remote consultations. However, extending a certification was considered less problematic. If physical examinations were required, the GPs would ask the patient to come to the office. The most suitable diagnoses for remote certification were respiratory infections and COVID-19-related diagnoses, as well as known chronic and long-term diseases. The GPs emphasized the importance of knowing both the patient and the medical problem. The GP-patient relationship could be affected by remote consultations, and there were mixed views on the impact. Many GPs found it easier to deny a request for a sickness certification in remote consultations. The GPs expressed concern about the societal costs and an increased number of certifications if remote consultations were too easily accessible. The study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the findings should be interpreted in that context.
Conclusions - Our study shows that issuing sickness certifications in remote consultations were viewed to be suitable for COVID-19 related problems, for patients the GP has met before, for the follow-up of known medical problems, and the extension of sickness certifications. Not meeting the patient face-to-face may affect the GP-patient relationship as well as make the GPs’ dual role more challenging.