Whilst some remain sceptical about online consultations it could reduce the need for face-to-face appointments with GPs by 40%.
Many people find it difficult to get time off work, travel and get in more harm when trying to get to the doctor’s office for a consultation that lasts just ten minutes. Patients that have disabilities that can cause them pain when travelling for a long distance, or could catch different infections when sitting in waiting rooms could benefit from online consultations.
Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, chief executive and founder of Patients Know Best, writes for the Guardian that it is important to offer online consultations when they are appropriate. Many in the NHS remain sceptical about consulting online as they feel that more time may be taken up, and they are unsure of what online consultation actually is.
Whilst the use of emails does not work well for this method of consultation, the right was to do online consultations involves asynchronously. This is where a patient fills out a structured online questionnaire that the doctor checks at a later date. Good online consultations also involve working synchronously, where both patient and doctor talk at the same time using some sort of video technology such a Skype.
With many face-to-face consultations involving the GP asking the patient the same set of routine question at various points throughout the year, the online asynchronous method could save the patient a visit to the doctors and the doctor’s time.
In 2010, the Mayo Clinic in the US found that online consultations reduced the need for face-to-face appointments with GPs by 40%. Doctors can devise questions themselves using programmes such as Instant Medical History.
IMH, part of the Mayo Clinic study, tailors the detail of follow on questions to the speciality of the clinician. However a downside to online appointments is that the doctor cannot examine the patient, but not every appointment requires an examination. In synchronous video consultations allows the doctor to view the patients living conditions which could give them information they may have missed.
Dr Al-Ubaydli says that in order for online consultations to work effectively the need to be introduced correctly. If GPs and hospital staff give the impression they’re not fully behind online consulting, patients will sense it and not use the option.
GPs and doctors must move away from thinking they are too busy to consult online as it is because they are so busy that they should consider online consultations.
What do you think of online consultations? Is it a service you would use?