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The use of Skype (or VoIP) for Medical Consultations

Last updated on March 20, 2015

Two weeks ago I attended a face-to-face consultation at my local hospital which in itself lasted no more than 5 minutes. For it, I had to take half a day off work (travel forth and back, time spent walking forth and back from the car park, waiting time etc) , spent £5 on petrol, and £4 on car parking fees. Not to mention, the time it took to make up the hours and of course the freezing cold weather. I’m sure many of you can relate to this.

As I was driving home, I realised that had my consultant just dropped me a 5 minutes call, it would have saved so much time and hassle saved costs for me and the NHS too (they wouldn’t need multiple waiting areas, staff, cleaners and parking spaces!), which would result in increased productivity, cost savings and convenience for both the NHS and patients!

The use of Skype (VoIP) for health consultations outside the NHS

There are numerous examples of health consultations being conducted through Skype, or other VoIP applications, especially in alternative medicine and therapy. West Sussex Homeopathy,  Harley Street Skin, and NLP therapy, are a few examples of many that conduct consultations through Skype. More excitingly however, Lloyds Pharmacy are now offering private GP consultations through Skype for £20 per a (15-20 min) consultation.

Using Skype (VoIP) in the NHS for health consultations

After the Department of Health’s call in August to ask the public to submit and suggest favourite apps as well as your ideas for new apps and health maps (more info here), Professor Sir Bruce Keogh announced that he was looking at using online services such as Skype to make the NHS more convenient for users: ”Once you have online consultations, it breaks down geographical boundaries. It opens up the spectre of 24/7 access.”

He went on to argue that it would be much more convenient for both patients and GPs: ‘In a world where immediacy and convenience influence how people perceive the quality of a service, you can see how that kind of thing might catch on.’ According to GP Online, a GMC spokeswoman replied to this news saying that ‘existing guidance stated that doctors must ensure patient information is not disclosed in public, for example, in an open internet chat forum’. I can understand the caution of GMC, but since when is Skype an open internet chat forum? However, there have been issues raised (thanks @clarkmike for bringing it to my attention) in America about  the security of data transported through Skype and the ease by which some hackers could breach doctor-patient confidentiality if Skype is used for consultations.

Please also join the #nhssm chat this week (on Twitter) about video calling for consultations.

Published in Featured Headline Healthcare Technology Twitter for health

8 Comments

  1. Great post Salma. Thanks for promoting tonight’s chat.

  2. Great article Salma , tnx for pointing out Andrew and Tim.

    We at REshape & Innovation Center (http://www.radbodreshapecenter.com) of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre the netherlands have developed a system exactly for that called FaceTalk.It will be launched at the HIMMS in Las Vegas in February. So keep an eye on that, will be available worldwide and will disrupt a lot of unneeded visits. Also makes consultation betweens HCP’s possible as well WITHOUT any additional hardware. So patients van have a FaceTalk with their doc or nurse from home on every platform you can think of (iPhone, iPad, Android, Win etc) Greeting Lucien Engelen @zorg20:twitter 

  3. FaceTalk is exactly doing that in secure way and is to be launched exactly on HIMMS in Las Vegas in February. Is an innovation of the Radboud REshape & Innovation Center  in am director of from the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands. All common platforms supported, no extra hardware needed. Makes it possible for patients to consult from home their doctor or nurse. more soon via i.e. @zorg20:disqus 
    and http://wwwradboudreshapecenter.com 

    tnx Andrew for pointing out

    Lucien Engelen

  4. Thank you Gary. That sounds like good news. Has there been any hesitation from staff or patients?

  5. Thanks Lucien for bringing that to my attention. Besides cross compatibility of FaceTalk, how else would it be different to Skype?

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