Why You Should Have Video Consultations, According To A Doctor

"The transition into video consultation was rapid and unexpected, but also necessary to adapt to the new reality, that all of us have had to deal with."

Kirsten Curtis |

The way we communicate with our family, friends and work colleagues have become completely virtual, with video calling apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and FaceTime leading the way. The same applies to doctor’s appointments, resulting in many medical professionals having to adjust their methods to create a new normal.

“The transition into video consultation was rapid and unexpected, but also necessary to adapt to the new reality, that all of us have had to deal with,” says Dr. Charlene de Greef, a general practitioner at Mayo Clinic in Constantia Kloof, Cape Town.

“Sadly, life pre- and post-COVID-19 has been dramatically different for all of us. We as doctors must do everything within our powers to help our patients, while minimising the anxiety that they have regarding this infection,” she explains.

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Keeping The Distance

Having this virtual consultation with your doctor also helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus as both the patient and doctor are practicing social distancing in this situation.

“This is because the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is so highly contagious,” she says. “It is ill-advised to see acute respiratory illnesses in general practice we need to avoid the risk of a patient suffering from COVID-19 coming into contact with other patients, who might have comorbidities that could put them at risk, should they be infected.”

Video consultations are also a great way for doctors to follow up with patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but aren’t ill enough to require hospitalisation.

“This method also works well for conditions that don’t require a full clinical exam. For example, psychological complaints.”

Getting Used To It

The confidential rapport between patient and doctor is important to any medical consultation, and many may find the digital version of this to be quite different. But Dr. de Greef mentions that her patients have learned to cope well with this new way of visiting the doc’s office.

“I noticed a bit of discomfort at first [from patients], but once they realise that their video consultation has exactly the same format as a normal consult, they all relax. I also felt a bit intimidated using technology in this way,” she admits. “However, once you’ve done it a few times and you realize how easy and convenient it is, you soon become quite comfortable.”

On average, a video consultation takes about 15 minutes and booking with your doctor is fairly easy. For Dr. de Greef, her patients will call in and either request a video consult or they will be asked a few screening questions by her staff. If there is any risk of COVID-19 based on the screening, a video consultation will be recommended. A time will then be arranged according the doctor’s and patient’s schedule.

“We currently use 2 platforms: Discovery medical aid has their own product called Doctor Connect and the patients will follow prompts on their app. For other patients, I use ClickDoc where I invite the patient into my virtual consulting room and we then proceed.”

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Because the process is online and a physical exam isn’t possible, doctors have to rely on the patient’s history along with the observations from the virtual platforms. Once the consultation is complete and the doctor is satisfied that the patient is stable, she will send necessary forms and documents to the patient via email.

“Sick notes after video consultations are perfectly legal,” she says. “It is imperative that doctors follow up daily with patients after the consultation to avoid the risk of missing a diagnosis because a physical examination couldn’t be performed. This is also to pick up any deterioration in the patient’s condition and then react appropriately to that.”

Moving Forward

Since it’s still unpredictable as to when the COVID-19 pandemic will come to a complete halt, video consultations will still be vital. Many doctors, just like Dr. de Greef will continue to do all they can to help their patients throughout this period, and possibly afterwards. Future patients should not feel discouraged by the fact that this process is virtual. It is a simple way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while still getting professional medical advice.

“I don’t think the concept of video consultation is at all difficult for patients, taking into account that many of them are utilising Zoom and Microsoft Teams for work. If anyone has any concern that they might be suffering from COVID-19 or have any other complaint that would be appropriate to consult with their doctor, then they should contact their doctor and set up the video consultations,” she advises.

“Utilising video consultation is an important tool in the fight against COVID-19”

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