NHS Patients want to Video Call their Doctors

A June 2012 survey of 328 patients by the NHS West Midlands founded “NHS Local” digital service has revealed:

> 52% of patients would Skype their Doctor if the option was available
> 20% of patients said a Skype appointment with their doctor would be more private
> 14% of patients said a Skype appointment would make it easier to discuss problems.
> 14% of patients don’t think there are any benefits in Video Calling their GP

Those surveyed suggested benefits of Video Consults with Doctors might include:

> savings because they don’t need to make a round taxi trip
> convenience and cost savings for those who are full time carers as they wouldn’t have to find and pay for replacement care to cover their time attending a medical appointment
> more comfort, privacy and convenience
> new opportunities to prioritise preventative care for patients who won’t attend a Healthcare facility
> new opportunities to modernise the housecall
> ways to avoid infectious disease eg. flu season
> opportunities to consult with a patients registered GP from anywhere

Those surveyed suggested downsides of Skype Consults with Doctors might include:

> concerns about patients who don’t have “internet access or IT know-how” and “technical hiccups”
> concerns about Skype not being secure
> who’s going to pay for the equipment that patients will need
> will it create “‘have nots” eg. patients left behind who haven’t got the technology
> Video consults can never beat in-office consults as “most GPs need to examine their patients”
> increased waste of resources

Dr Clare Gerada, Chair RCGP, told the researchers that video access could be “particularly beneficial for GPs and patients in rural areas – and patients and carers unable to leave their homes… …provided access and ability do not create additional barriers to treatment… …(although) new technology would never replace the benefits of a face-to-face surgery consultation”.

Dr Dawn Harper, GP and presenter of Embarrassing Bodies: Live from the Clinic, said: “As a practising GP, I am all too aware of how difficult it can be sometimes to get an appointment. There will always be some patients that we have to see face-to-face, but I certainly do a lot more phone calls and email consultations than I used to and I can see Skype being a useful addition to our armoury.”

My thoughts

Why not ask those who are already doing it?

In 2012 it’s strange to me that the NHS is researching what patients think Skype calls with their Doctors would be like when they could just be asking those patients who are ALREADY using Skype to consult with their NHS GPs.

Interestingly in NHS GP clinics where the Doctors have made themselves available over Skype and heavily marketed it to patients it’s proved much less popular than the survey results would suggest.


Obviously the research highlights there are very differing opinions on this (eg. 20% of patients said it would be more private whilst others mentioned they had concerns about Skype not being secure).

I wonder if these patients have some reason to believe Skype is insecure or if this is just general concern about PC viruses/vulnerabilities?

Perhaps the Mobile Network Operator mHealth teams should address these concerns in their marketing messages eg. publicizing the additional security of 3G handled calls/data over and above that carried on 2G networks/networks.

Benefits of video calling can be uncertain to some

In addition to 46 patients reporting that they could think of see no benefits in video calling their GP, there’s also a concern about the difficulty for a Doctor to “examine a patient” over a video call and suggestions that it would just waste resources and could “never replace the benefits of a face-to-face surgery consultation”.

I think this highlights the need to focus attention to the new capacity that a video call can open up eg. if your GP is closed, has a sign on his door saying don’t come in if you have flu symptoms, hasn’t got specialist training, etc then perhaps a Doctor who is available, can consult with you during a swine flu season, has dermatology specialist training, etc.

Obviously we should also promote the work of Doctors who get mHealth and are good communicators. Dr Rafael Grossmann Zamora (a Trauma Surgeon) gave a great TedX talk that I have found is very helpful at raising awareness of the capacity of mobile video tech in healthcare eg. if this Trauma Surgeon can use mobile video calls I can talk with my Doctor about my informational needs.

The Digital Divide

Whilst the opportunity to modernise the housecall is obvious there’s a lot of concern that some patients can be left behind because they don’t have the necessary tech/”IT know-how” or the ability to afford the equipment. I think this is an important reminder of the need to focus on mobile video calling rather than a PC based alternative. Here are a few reasons:

> Unlike PC based Skype Calls Mobile video calls naturally default to mobile voice calls (and nearly everyone’s already got a mobile)
> The cost of a Video Mobile is even less than the cost of internet connectivity
> The usability of Video Mobiles are lightening years ahead of PC’s with webcams and this is being greatly boosted by advances in mobile UI’s

About David Doherty

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9 Responses to NHS Patients want to Video Call their Doctors

  1. Pingback: NHS Patients want to Video Call their Doctors « mHealth Insight: the ... | Surgery | Scoop.it

  2. Pingback: ICMCC News Page » NHS Patients want to Video Call their Doctors

    • Haziq says:

      Colin,Potentially the Bill does allow GPs themselves to make proesnal gain from the NHS funding stream.Para 223L Payments in respect of performance, s1 (page 41), states the [NHS] Board may, after then end of a financial year, make a payment to a commissioning consortium if, in the light of an assessment carried out under ..it considers that the consortium has performed well during that year .This is further added to by 223L, s7 (page 42) which states A commissioning consortium may distribute any payments received by it among its members in such proportions as it considers appropriate .One might interpret this that a) bonuses will be paid, and b) they will go to supplement GP income. We await the DH translation of the Bill into (NHS) English so that we can determine the rules for preventing proesnal gain.

  3. Pingback: NHS Patients want to Video Call their Doctors | Health around the clock | Scoop.it

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  5. Pingback: NHS Patients want to Video Call their Doctors | eHealth Futures | Scoop.it

  6. Rafael Grossmann says:

    Excellent article. Health providers need to embrace this technology. Video is the “new voice” in medicine. Thanks.

    • Rafael says:

      NHS Complaints …a solution?The idea is that each Trust pays into an Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) pool to fund real inddeenepncy in complaints.The way it would work is:“Each Trust pays a sum for complaints handling, with the Trusts failing at local resolution paying in substantially more. This will have the added incentive of resolving complaints locally thus keeping the Finance Director happy, less litigation, less escalation to Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman “The Parliamentary Health Select Committee inquiry into Complaints and *Litigation clearly shows how concerned Parliament is on escalating costs occurred by NHS of fighting failures through the courts. *Latest Figures from NHSLA In 2009/10, 6,652 claims of clinical negligence and 4,074 claims of non-clinical negligence against NHS bodies were received by the Authority, up from 6,088 claims of clinical negligence and 3,743 claims of non-clinical negligence in 2008/09.a3787 million was paid in connection with clinical negligence claims during 2009/10, up from a3769 million in 2008/09.

  7. Pingback: The Medical & Dental Defence Union of Scotland says Doctors ‘could’ do something they’re already doing… « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

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