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Tips for your 21st century 'virtual' consultation over the web

By West Briton  |  Posted: April 03, 2014

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THE NHS is fairly slow at making use of new technology to enhance the patient experience but this morning I saw a 60-year-old man who had booked his appointment via the internet. Although all GP receptionists are always lovely, he was delighted with how easy it had been, that he had been able to see at a glance all the available appointments and was able to book when the surgery's phone lines were closed. Many surgeries now offer this service, along with online prescription requests, but uptake has been slow despite people using the internet for other aspects of daily life and I wonder how ready we really are to change the traditional doctor-patient interaction. With mounting pressure on GP appointments, it has been suggested that an online consultation using applications such as Skype or Facetime could cut the need for face-to-face appointments. In many respects an internet consultation is greatly superior to the current default of a telephone call and shouldn't take any longer, but there are some issues to consider. Check that you are actually talking to a doctor and not someone from a disreputable website with a Fisher-Price stethoscope around their neck. To justify not being at work, try to look as ill as possible by not getting dressed, turning off Loose Women and asking your mates to keep out of camera shot during the consultation. If using a mobile device, check that you are in a suitable location before exposing the offending part. Displaying anything "down below" while in public is still considered an offence. Try not to flush the toilet so that you can show the doctor the contents of the bowl if asked. If you are very comfortable with the sharing of information on social media sites the results of the consultation can be directly uploaded on to your Facebook page, thus saving you even more time. " Jason's chlamydia has been treated with a single dose of azithromycin. Please seek treatment if you have recently entered a relationship with him." If there are any technical issues during the consultation, don't worry; it's probably a virus.

■ Dr Matt Bull is a GP at Three Spires Medical Practice in Truro

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