General practitioners’ perceptions of using virtual primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic: An international cross-sectional survey study

Edmund Li, Rosy Tsopra, Geronimo Larrain Gimenez, Alice Serafini, Gustavo Gusso, Heidrun Lingner, Maria Jose Fernandez, GREG IRVING, Davorina Petek, Robert Hoffman, Vanja Lazic, Memarian Ensieh, Tuomas Koskela, Claire Collins, Sandra Milena Espitia, Ana Claveria, Katarzyna Nessler, Braden Gregory O'Neill, Kyle Hoedebecke, Mehmet Ungan Liliana Laranjo, Saira Ghafur, Gianluca Fontana, Azeem Majeed, Josip Car, Ara Darzi, Ana Luisa Neves

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With the onset of COVID-19, general practitioners (GPs) and patients worldwide swiftly transitioned from face-to-face to digital remote consultations. There is a need to evaluate how this
global shift has impacted patient care, healthcare providers, patient and carer experience,
and health systems. We explored GPs’ perspectives on the main benefits and challenges of
using digital virtual care. GPs across 20 countries completed an online questionnaire between
June–September 2020. GPs’ perceptions of main barriers and challenges were explored
using free-text questions. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. A total of 1,605
respondents participated in our survey. The benefits identified included reducing COVID-19
transmission risks, guaranteeing access and continuity of care, improved efficiency, faster
access to care, improved convenience and communication with patients, greater work flexibility for providers, and hastening the digital transformation of primary care and accompanying
legal frameworks. Main challenges included patients’ preference for face-to-face consultations, digital exclusion, lack of physical examinations, clinical uncertainty, delays in diagnosis
and treatment, overuse and misuse of digital virtual care, and unsuitability for certain types of
consultations. Other challenges include the lack of formal guidance, higher workloads, remuneration issues, organisational culture, technical difficulties, implementation and financial
issues, and regulatory weaknesses. At the frontline of care delivery, GPs can provide important insights on what worked well, why, and how during the pandemic. Lessons learned can
be used to inform the adoption of improved virtual care solutions and support the long-term
development of platforms that are more technologically robust and secure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalPLOS Digital Health
Early online date16 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2022


  • Primary care
  • COVID-19
  • Pandemics
  • Health Care Providers
  • Quality of Care

Research Institutes

  • Health Research Institute

Research Centres

  • Edge Hill Primary and Integrated Care Research Centre


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