close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
AFP
June 3, 2020

As doctors go virtual, pandemic turbocharges telemedicine

World

AFP
June 3, 2020

PARIS: Will visiting the doctor ever be the same again? In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus pandemic sparked a technological revolution in healthcare systems across the world that might otherwise have taken years. Spurred on by fears of contagion in wards and waiting rooms, many health practitioners are replacing the face-to-face meetings that have always underpinned general practice, with patient consultations by telephone and online video apps. Some of the most radical changes have been in primary healthcare, where doctors have often faced shortages of protective equipment, but specialists in everything from mental health to eye care have also turned to technology to treat patients at a distance. “General practice has undergone significant changes in the way GPs and our teams have delivered patient care during the pandemic — and the speed in which these changes were implemented has been remarkable,” Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of Britain’s Royal College of GPs told AFP.

As the virus spread, health authorities in the UK, Europe and elsewhere updated guidance on everything from data protection to how to build trust remotely. The United States rolled back restrictions on access to telemedicine, and eased privacy regulations to allow people to use platforms like Skype and FaceTime. “People are now seeing this model, which we thought would take years and years to develop. And it’s probably been accelerated by a decade,” Chris Jennings, US policy consultant and former White House health care adviser told STAT news recently. Globally, 58 percent of surveyed countries are now using telemedicine, the World Health Organization said Monday, adding the figure was 42 percent among low income nations. Layla McCay, a director at the NHS Confederation representing British healthcare services, told AFP that most of the UK’s 1.2 million daily face-to-face primary care consultations were done remotely “in the space of weeks”. But there were challenges. “My first video consultation was a mess. Builders were drilling, the microphone failed, a colleague walked in, and lockdown was imminent,” Camille Gajria, a doctor and clinical teaching fellow at Imperial College London, told the British Medical Journal. She said teleconsultations can be efficient but warned of “cognitive bias” — a doctor, for example, might assume that a child playing in the background is the one being discussed. There are also concerns that vulnerable patients might find it difficult to talk about mistreatment at home, while elderly people could struggle to navigate unfamiliar technology.