While the idea of diagnosing patients via video conferencing is very new in the medical industry, there are many ways it can improve quality of care for patients. There will always be times when it’s necessary to have a doctor physically examine and diagnose patients, but video conferencing for medical industry professionals will allow diagnosis in cases where such face to face meetings are complicated to arrange. One of the most promising areas is in offering care for people in rural or isolated areas. Small-town doctors are a dying breed, unfortunately, and it’s difficult for many people to find a primary care physician in a lot of areas. By making liberal use of video conferencing to discuss concerns, look at symptoms, and discuss diagnoses with patients, doctors can offer quality care to people without having to travel long distances.
In Home Care and Convenience
This kind of care can be offered in two ways. For those with high-speed internet connections, it’s possible to have such a meeting one-on-one with the patient. This way, the patient can bring up whatever issues they are having from the privacy of their own home. Comfort with surroundings reduces stress and makes it easier for patients to remember details about their concerns. This system can also reduce the amount of time required per patient without reducing the amount of care patients receive. For the patient, driving time, waiting room time and other inconveniences are avoided. For the doctor, downtime between patients is reduced and the chances of infection via other patients is dramatically lowered.
Such a service could be extremely valuable when it comes to that last point. After the Disneyland measles outbreak, one of the main vectors for spreading the disease was the waiting room of doctors’ offices. Not only could such severe issues be prevented, but it would also mean that those who have a cold or flu but need a doctor’s note to miss work would be able to be seen without exposing other patients to their germs.
This service could be instituted directly by doctors or insurance companies to reduce costs. Some integrated care organizations like Kaiser Permanente have introduced preliminary versions of this system, where doctors are accessible via email and can receive pictures as well as notes. For such organizations, it would be a comparatively simple matter to add video conferencing to the available tools.
There are also iPhone and Android apps that can connect users with doctors. In this case, the doctors are not professionals the user already has a relationship with, but an available doctor at the right time. The obvious downside here is that it can be difficult to deal with a doctor who is unfamiliar with one’s medical history. This is similar to going to urgent care – it’s great when that’s the only option available, but it’s not ideal.
Clinics Without Doctors
A second option for those who do not have internet access or those who also need a level of hands-on care that can be provided by a medical assistant, phlebotomist or pharmacist, is to have a specialized booth or room available in a location where people can come for treatment and to talk to a doctor if necessary.
One application of this technology was displayed in 2013, a kiosk that allows people to talk directly to doctors. Those kiosks belong to a central company and are not affiliated with the places they are installed, however. Instead of depending on an outside company, clinics and community centers could create their own. All that would be required would be a partnership with a doctor or office and a video conferencing system that patients could use.
Video conferencing for Medical Industry Professionals is still a young field with a handful of up and coming companies looking to fulfill the needs of a system that hasn’t fully developed yet. Each video conferencing company has its own strengths, but some companies like Blue Jeans are intentionally tweaking their services to reach out to the medical industry. The medical industry has specific needs when it comes to the transfer of information, especially in regards to privacy concerns. It’s important that all video diagnosis procedures conform to HIPAA requirements, just like any other doctor-patient interaction. This makes it all the more important that medical offices choose a secure option for video conferencing.
Overall, while there are logistic and technical concerns to overcome when implementing video conferencing for diagnosis in the medical field, the move to more video and less physical presence seems inevitable. While many fields of specialized medicine can never be replaced by a meeting via video conferencing, the option to see a doctor via computer will improve care exponentially in rural areas, cut down drastically on the potential for exposure to germs in the doctor’s office itself, and lighten the burden on those who really just want to take some cold medicine and go back to bed, but either need a note for work or want to ensure there’s no serious problem being overlooked. No solution is perfect, but video conferencing certainly seems more perfect than most.