Posted by: Benedict Lam28 MAR 2013
A hospital in north London may soon be providing medical consultations via Skype. Hospital bosses at The Whittington Hospital say the planned system, which would involve patients discussing their illness with doctors using Skype, an internet video-chat service, would free doctors’ time.
Greg Battle, executive medical director for integrated care at The Whittington, said that more and people are happy to be contacted in a variety of ways and that other forms of communication, including telephone and email, would be used by the doctors as well.
In Manchester, a GP says Skype consultations are popular at his surgery. Sirfraz Hussain says Skype consultations are handy for elderly or disabled people who may struggle to get to the surgery to see him in person, and it is a convenient way to conduct a consultation during poor weather.
So what about Skype consultations in pharmacies?
Community pharmacists are delivering more and more services. If we were allowed to use Skype to conduct services such as medicines use reviews, the new medicine service or smoking cessation, this would mean patients, for example, who find it difficult to come into the pharmacy or are too busy to hang around for an MUR after they pick up their prescription, would be able to benefit from services conducted virtually at a mutually convenient time. If a medicine needs to be supplied, this can be dispensed and bagged to await collection when the patient comes into the pharmacy.
If staffing levels allow it, perhaps over-the-counter consultations could be conducted via Skype as well. After all, we already take telephone calls from the general public with queries about their medicines and health. A Skype consultation would add a visual dimension and allow easier identification of minor ailments. Although not everyone would prefer to interact with a healthcare professional via this method, it makes sense for us to use technology for the betterment of our practice and give patients another way of getting in touch.
Those doctors on Channel 4’s “Embarrassing bodies” are already conducting consultations on television via Skype, so why shouldn’t we?
And, by the way, I think it’s well overdue to have a pharmacist on that programme. The number of times I’ve been able to identify a problem and suggest a treatment while watching the show frustrates me. So how about it Dr Christian?
Does your pharmacy already offer Skype consultations? Let us know via a comment below.