The Rise of Online Doctors’ Appointments

by Head Health Nutter on February 1, 2013

Did you know there was such a thing as online doctors’ appointments? I didn’t until guest blogger, Karl Young, sent in this article. Check it out and see what you think!

Will Video Calling Replace Face-to-Face Appointments?

Many countries including Canada, America and the UK have always found the integration of new technologies and innovations into national and private care services effortless, as they are driven to improve clinical care services. Video Calling is truly mobile with millions of people now having access to mobile devices; smart phones, laptops and tablets, enabling users to be connected to the web 24 hours a day.

StehoscopeThe demand on the national health services around the world are increasing with more and more patients needing doctors’ appointments now more than ever. Doctors around the world have already started to use Video Conferencing software to communicate with patients in hopes that Video Calling can reduce waiting and consultation times.

With healthcare budgets and resources under pressure, Video Calling is being looked at as a cost cutting resource that can improve a service that is currently not helping everyone who needs care or minor medical advice/attention to get in front of a doctor within two days.

Both doctors and patients have voiced concerns over the use of video conferencing in practice, so what are the pitfalls and benefits of using Video Calls for doctors’ appointments?

Pitfalls

Professionals and patients from many industries have voiced their concerns over several issues:

No Process or System

There is currently not a process or system in place to protect both patients and doctors from the misuse of the software. Without a system, process or code of conduct, patients may feel vulnerable or potentially exploited on the software; safeguards need to put in place to protect doctors and patients against misuse. Monitoring/recording calls would be one way to protect both parties however confidential issues would need to be addressed before being implemented.

Data Protection & Security

Concerns have been raised over the storing of patient data on online applications. Storing data online could become a security risk as highly personal information would be stored, and in the wrong hands could cause damage to peoples’ lives and reputations. Some doctors have already been using Skype for video appointments, and fears have been raised over the targeting of doctors’ online accounts.

Medical negligence

One of the biggest concerns raised against the move to introduce Video Calling is the medical diagnosis of patients over video calls. Both patients and doctors have aired concerns that in some cases, online calls would not be sufficient for diagnosis when identifying some illnesses, diseases or disabilities. First time diagnosis of a problem can save lives, but if a doctor was to wrongly diagnose a patient or prescribe the wrong medication the health service could be open to costly medical negligence claims.

Benefits

Like any new services problems can occur; resources, money and time can be invested into making video calling more secure. Currently these are some of the best reasons why online appointments should continue:

Less transport

When people need to see a doctor, instead of jumping on public transport or in their vehicle, patients participate in a consultation anytime and anywhere at home, at work or even in their vehicle. This would reduce the amount of people needing to travel and potentially save people’s lives as ill drivers would be deterred from traveling.

Fewer sick days

The economy could see a benefit from the introduction of online appointments, as patients with contagious illnesses could stay at home potentially reducing the spread of illnesses like the Noro virus and bird flu virus. Reducing sick days would be great for any business, paying someone to work when they are not at work is a huge financial burden on businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Test Result

Repeat prescription and test results could be given out over software like Skype. For non-urgent appointments doctors would be able to give information quicker than a face to face meeting. Thus saving time helping patients with more serious problems get seen to first.

Hassle and Stress

Online calls could potentially reduce the stress and hassle of a consultation especially for unwell children or long term suffers. Weekly/monthly catch ups can be given online saving everyone time and money. Appointments could be booked anytime, anywhere on booking forms online, even filled out on the move. This would not restrict patients to booking appointments first thing in the morning.

Conclusion

The use of video calling in medical practices is still one for tough consideration; however any innovation that can help care services save money, time and resources is an innovation worth investing time and money into. Yes, the services would not help everyone but for the modern family it could be a service countries are proud of.

Most of the western countries have good internet connections with internet penetration at good levels, running an online service would require some research and development, but in the long term we could see video calling becoming a permanent pillar in national care services around the world.

About the Author

This post was created by Karl Young on behalf of Pannone a leading medical negligence claims solicitor based in UK.

I’m not sure about online doctors’ appointments because if the doctor is relatively stress-free, he/she can detect certain things (like dilated pupils, for instance) in a face-to-face meeting but not necessarily over Skype. What do YOU think?

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