The increasing number of missed GP appointments has led to a call for the introduction of potentially revolutionary Skype GP Consultations. It is argued that appointments over the video calling giant would facilitate an accessible GP service for those living in rural areas or others who are simply unable to access their local GP due to disabilities etc.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt supported the move by pointing out that the NHS are increasingly using technological means such as texting and Skype to contact their patients. However, questions have been raised regarding to what extent Doctors will be able to avoid over reliance on the technology.
There are worries that the use of Skype to facilitate ‘face-to-face’ consultations without leaving the home will result in incompetent examinations of patients. Although Skype is undeniably advantageous in comparison to a telephone consultation it is still no substitute for an in person, physical examination.
Most patients who attend their GP surgery will require some sort of physical examination, be it only a blood pressure check. Skype consultations run the risk that those simple, routine checks like blood pressure will be overlooked for the convenience of an online check-up. Consequently, the use of Skype GP consultations will potentially expose GPs to further criticism and potential negligence for failing to pick up on signs and symptoms not obvious or examinable by this method.
The GMC, which is based in London and Manchester, has issued guidance for the use of Skype stating that the key issue is for Doctors to recognise when a patient examination is necessary. However, the risk remains that doctors will rely too much on previous patient history/notes and failing to recognise when an examination is necessary.