|Skype visits transforming the medical field|
|Written by Kellie Flaherty, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 10 April 2012 11:39|
Dr. Lee Montgomery, a Baton Rouge-based doctor, is now using Skype to turn the traditional doctor visit into an online video chat to evaluate some of his patients as a strategy to make health care more affordable.
Skype visits are said to run at an average of $10 per call, which would save patients both time and money if they needed to discuss a quick topic with their doctors like a skin rash or medication concerns.
Dr. Jean Swearingen, medical director of Student Health Services, and Dr. Annilee Rohrscheib, staff physician at SHS, hold their own opinions in regards to Montgomery’s approach and the use of Skype visits in the medical field.
“There are times where Skype visits may have some validity and utility, but I don’t think it should constitute the entire doctor-patient relationship,” Swearingen said. “The video chat method would be difficult to substitute for doctor visits, since you obviously can’t do an examination.”
Although Rohrscheib does not have any first-hand knowledge of Skype visits, she thinks it has great potential depending on the nature of a doctor’s patient population. She explained the ability to do secure medical messaging is a great convenience for patients and physicians, which is a practice she does everyday at SHS on campus.
Swearingen said Skype visits could make medical care more accessible for people who live in remote areas or are homebound. She added they would be useful for quick follow-ups with patients to see how they are progressing.
“The benefits are probably mostly time savings for the patient and physician, and cost-effectiveness for the patient, who most likely would not have to pay as much for a Skype visit,” Rohrscheib explained.
Swearingen added Skype might also be useful for nurse triaging of patients, which means evaluating a patient to see if and when they need to be seen in the office.
Swearingen said some disadvantages of this method are the absence of examinations, difficulty reading body language, less privacy for patients, and a possible weakening or diminishing of the patient-doctor relationship.
“With Skype visits, the doctor would of course have no ability to physically examine a patient with the exception of doing a dermatological inspection, and there would have to be strict parameters in place for using Skype for a patient visit,” Rohrscheib explained. “However, if a Skype visit exceeded the parameters the doctor could simply tell his patient they need to come into the office for further examination.”
Some other disadvantages of Skype visits that Rohrscheib noted include the time consuming process of documenting all information from each encounter and the possibility that insurance companies start charging for malpractice insurance if a provider chose to use Skype’s services.
“I could also foresee a scenario whereby insurance companies might refuse to reimburse patients for what is essentially a phone call. So as with any new service or technology, it might potentially create all types of snags initially,” Rohrscheib added.