Covid 19 and Civil Assessment Psychiatry – a personal view

Covid 19 and Civil Assessment Psychiatry – a personal view

June 26, 2020

It is hard to fathom how devastating Covid 19 has been to the world. I am now working from home and apart from Zoom meetings with colleagues, playing golf weekly and visiting my office  I am otherwise at home. It is difficult to grasp how severe and rapid the changes have been for us all meaning all the world.

I have been working from home since late March and have slowly learned to use the new technology. Although I miss the routine of working in the office, going to my city office and to meetings and so forth nevertheless there have been surprising benefits. One of these is that I have found the people I interviewed seem much more relaxed when they are being interviewed remotely in their own home. There have been some odd situations, I was interviewing a woman who had just come off night shift. She was in her studio apartment lying on the bed and fell asleep! Another fellow lived in the country and had to drive to the top of the hill to get a signal so he could talk to me. A young woman was on a bus at the time of the interview and was quite keen for the interview to proceed whilst on the bus with people nearby. Apart from those instances it has otherwise been relatively uneventful although there have been signal dropouts and people having trouble connecting via Zoom.

I have been having more Zoom recently and have become more proficient. I still use FaceTime, Duo and WhatsApp and sometimes Skype. I have had two video conferences using Microsoft Team. Others have praised a number of other remote conferencing technologies but I am satisfied with what I have.

I have purchased an excellent combined camera and microphone for my monitor that is very effective. Since the NBN connection has been made the signal has been generally very good. I have learned to use different backgrounds with Zoom interviews although some of the backgrounds would be regarded as inappropriate, such as the interior of St Peter’s Basilica, a swimming pool and me doing a tango!

I have been having peer-review meetings via Zoom and have been surprised that so many psychiatrists have been working face-to-face during the Covid 19 lockdown. I just did a webinar on The Art of the Expert Witness and I have placed that on the website.

This experience has made me review my practice. I am now considering remotely interviewing claimants who live in the country or interstate rather than them having to go through all the hassle of getting to see me, being interviewed and going home which may take them a day or so. Of course this has to be with the agreement of the referrer.

Although I look forward to a return to “normality”, including overseas travel, this seems unlikely in the short term and I expect that when we get back to normal we will look back on this time with some nostalgia.


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