30 Apr The doctor will see you now… on your smartphone
My day-to-day work at VideoDoc is quite varied and interesting. I work from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, although there are also evening and weekend shifts available. The VideoDoc service is offered from 8am to 10pm seven days a week. My work is very flexible and I can work from home or from any location with a good internet connection.
I am alerted by text message when there is a patient on the platform waiting to be seen. Most consultations are carried out by video, but some are carried out by telephone. I see a wide range of conditions, ranging from minor illness, such as upper respiratory tract infections and skin conditions, to more severe presentations which can require Emergency Department referral.
Following a consultation, prescriptions can be faxed to a patient’s chosen pharmacy, and then posted, or can be posted directly to a patient. Sickness certificates are generated within the platform and can be printed by the patient. Referral letters can be uploaded to the platform and then printed by the patient. Apart from that, there is no additional paperwork at VideoDoc.
In addition to seeing patients, I have also had the opportunity to engage in other types of work, for example, writing and editing discharge information templates on various medical conditions, which are given to patients as part of a patient discharge report after their consultation. I have also written training materials and scripts for training videos for doctors new to the service.
How is it different from your previous work models?
VideoDoc offers secure video consultations to patients on demand. There is no appointment system, and we aim to see any patient on the platform within 3 minutes. This is quite different from the appointment system in most GP practices, and is more like a walk-in system.
VideoDoc does not aim to provide a full range of GP services. For example, blood tests or other investigations are not carried out. If a patient requires further assessment, including a further physical examination, blood testing or other investigation, we recommend that they attend their own GP.
What are the advantages of working for VideoDoc?
With VideoDoc, I can choose my own hours and work from home. This is a huge advantage for GPs looking for more flexibility at work, as the work can be fit around family or other commitments.
I have had a steep learning curve since starting with VideoDoc. It has been very interesting and stimulating to learn about the field of telemedicine, which was something that was very new to me. I have also gained an insight into how a new service such as this is set up. The support team at VideoDoc are excellent, and are always on hand immediately to deal with any issues.
From a patient perspective, I feel that VideoDoc offers a valuable service, as it is so accessible and convenient. Patients can use the service from anywhere, including on their mobile phone, and so can avoid taking time off work to see a GP for a minor illness. Patients often use the service for advice on where best to seek medical attention for a particular problem, for example with their GP or at the Emergency Department.
What are the challenges of working this way?
I find that the main challenge is not being able to carry out a full physical examination. Certain types of examination can be carried out during a video consultation, such as asking a patient to shine a light from their phone into their throat to examine their pharynx. Patients can also upload photos, which can be very useful in skin conditions.
Because of this, I tend to spend a bit more time on the history, to ensure I don’t miss anything, and I try always to have safety uppermost in my mind. If I feel that a patient needs a more thorough assessment, I will always recommend that they see their own GP.
How does working this way impact on the relationships with patients?
There is less continuity of care compared with a standard GP practice. While it is possible to arrange for a patient to see you again, in general patients see whichever doctor is working on the platform at the time.
It is also a bit more difficult to develop a good relationship with a patient over video. I think there is something that is lost, in the same way that talking to someone on Skype is not the same as seeing them face-to-face. However, with good communication skills, I believe this can be partially overcome. I also feel that the convenience and accessibility of the service outweighs this for most patients.
The author is a GP working for VideoDoc