Doing the “grandparent” Skype video call and using Skype in a business environment has led two medical practitioners to begin using Skype to facilitate and accelerate patient care in their practice. While not a replacement for all doctor visits, there are situations where Skype video can be used to both screen patients prior to a visit or drive access to medical care.
In an ABC News report on Good Morning America today, reporter Tanya Rivero talks about “Bringing Back the House Call, Virtually”. She interviews a New York-based plastic surgeon and one of his patients; she then interviews Iowa-based psychiatrist Dr. Loren Olson via Skype video.
Dr. Spero Thodorou, a plastic surgeon, found that many of his patients comprise a younger demographic familiar with the Internet. He uses Skype video to screen and educate patients prior to their first office visit. Patient Christine Traveras talks about how using Skype minimized her time requirements for the screening call; subsequently she has visited the office and had one of the surgeon’s procedures carried out.
Psychiatrist Dr. Loren Olson had started using Skype for calls to his grandchildren and then realized that he could use it (i) for routine follow up “med-check” visits with both urban and rural patients and (ii) for clinical consultations with a team of medical providers in a rural area. Amongst his points in the interview:
- the need in the cities relates to getting the 50% of mentally ill patients who do not have access to medical services to simply interact with a medical professional.
- while his calls do not have the intimacy of an office visit, there’s often a question of “this visit” vs. “no visit”.
- patients can become so totally absorbed and relaxed in the discussion such that the technology literally melts away. In one case a patient asked for a glass of water (says something about the realism provided by Skype’s High Quality Video)
- one paranoid schizophrenic patient actually preferred using Skype for his doctor calls.
Bottom line: With the ongoing debate over rising healthcare costs, can Skype video calling contribute to solutions that not only reduce both patient and practitioner costs but also shrink travel requirements, accelerate remedial procedures and, most importantly, cut the time spent reading six-month-old magazines in the doctor’s waiting room?