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Can patients be accurately assessed using Skype and email?

Posted by:

21 April, 2014

Last week David Cameron said more than 7.5 million people will be offered increased access to GP services through extended opening times and new consultation methods using video-phone services, email and phone. But can Skype and email replace face-to-face contact?

Nurses are already using this technology successfully in their practice. An article published in Nursing Times this week describes an innovative continence service where young people with spina bifida were happy to access specialist continence service from home via Skype.


What do you think?

  • Could your patients manage to use email or Skype to consult with nursing and medical staff?
  • What are the benefits and limitations?
  • Would you be happy to have a consultation with your GP over the phone?


If you want to know more about telehealth visit our Health IT specialist section.

Readers' comments (8)

  • I think Skype appointments are a brilliant idea and would help practices to offer same day appointments to everyone. Skype appointments would be cheaper for all concerned as it saves the patient money in having to physically reach the practice and it saves the practice money as many more patients will be able to be seen.

    Obviously, sometimes a GP may wish to examin a patient which would necessitate a trip to the practice, but other than that it's a win win for all concerned.

    I can see this form of telemedicine working well in nursing homes and during out of hours where being able to physically see this patient would help with triage etc. I think Skype appointments should be offered with hospital consultants too where appropriate.

    Not all technology is crap and I certainly see this as a way forward.

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  • Anonymous | 21-Apr-2014 8:48 pm

    well, supposing some patients don't agree with you. some prefer human contact and not all of this virtual stuff. why should you impose your views on patients and especially older ones?

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  • Anonymous | 21-Apr-2014 9:22 pm

    I'm sure you're right, but it's all about choice. If I had the choice off a Skype appointment which would mean not having to take time off from work, where I'd get an email a few minutes before the GP contacted me then I'd jump at the chance. I'd imagine this kind of interaction would who fit in with many others lifestyles too.

    I'm sure many find the notion of a Skype appointment abhorrent and that's fine too. The thing is its a cheap way for a GP or practice nurse or consultant whoever to see more people. It isn't the only answer, but I think its a worthwhile tool to have in the kit.

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  • Anonymous | 22-Apr-2014 9:27 pm

    from Anonymous | 21-Apr-2014 9:22 pm

    you are probably right to for those who wish this convenience and as long as care for the elderly and others who do not wish for this choice does not further deteriorate. one of the problems is the equipment and a subscription for an internet connection is unaffordable for some and some simply do not want it or to be treated by the health services in this way. I manage to enjoy a good and healthy quality of life in old age only because I have a few savings which I can spend on activities until they run out rather than technology - ie no TV, Mobile phone, car and iPad, cigarettes, drink and magazines and would still prefer a doctor available for face to face consultation if I need one and would love to have all of the above as well but have other priorities.

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  • How would they cope with people with learning disability's ,would they allow more time ?

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  • tammy murray | 24-Apr-2014 3:15 pm

    I don't think anyone is suggesting ending face-to-face appointments, but telemedicine absolutely has its place. If you can use one of those new fancy phones or can turn a computer on then you can use Skype.

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  • Anonymous | 25-Apr-2014 11:21 am

    you might not wish to use Skype. You might not be be able to afford the equipment or the connection, you might not be able to see the screen or type well. you might not have any space for it or want it encumbering you space.

    here's an idea. instead of having doctors over skype you could have one of these virtual dollies thingies which could answer all your questions and if you want to show them the skin rash on your bottom they can just record it for the doctor to look at a few weeks later if they have the time.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 21-Apr-2014 8:48 pm

    If both sides have got the necessary technology, then e-consultations would not only save money as you point out - just as significantly, they would probably save quite a lot of time.

    But as others have pointed out, Skype and e-mail for not for everyone - the trick, as usual, is to figure out how to use any new possibility, to genuinely improve things. Expressing that differently, you need to make the technology fit the real world, rather than trying to force the real world to fit the technology.

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