Video chat instead of a visit to the practice - doctors in the digital age already today

Video chat instead of a visit to the practice - doctors in the digital age already today

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Will the visit to the doctor soon expire?

The eyes burn, the throat scratches and the head roars - a visit to the doctor seems inevitable. But once you've tortured yourself into practice, disillusionment often comes. The waiting room is filled up to a few places and you squeeze between other coughing and sneezing patients and sometimes wait over an hour for the liberating call to the doctor. These times could soon be a thing of the past, because many doctors, including Dr. med. Franz Bartmann, President of the Schleswig-Holstein Medical Association, advocated the introduction of video chat for remote diagnosis.

My doctor in the smartphone

According to Bartmann, a group of experts from the Medical Association, consisting of doctors and lawyers, is working to allow future diagnoses to be made via video chat, at least in exceptional cases. Bad or complicated cases must continue to be dealt with in practice in the future. An official decision is expected to be made at the next German Medical Day, which will take place in Erfurt in May 2018. "It is very likely that this will also be decided," reports Bartmann.

Legal hurdles

Remote diagnosis is currently prohibited in Germany. Only follow-up treatments by known patients may be carried out via video consultation. For example, it can be checked whether a wound heals as expected. "The changes in the field of remote treatment are important to strengthen telemedicine in Germany," explains Bartmann. In particular, it can counteract the shortage of doctors in the country and ensure good health care.

Pilot projects should provide more clarity

A pilot project for remote treatment is to start in Baden-Württemberg at the beginning of the year. For the time being for private patients, from March onwards, health insurance patients will follow. Other projects have already taken place in North Rhine-Westphalia and in Berlin in old people's homes. In this way, the nurse can bring the family doctor to the individual patient via video transmission. Long journeys and waiting times are eliminated. Another use for general practitioners is to call in experts to get advice from a specialist.

Split enthusiasm

Health experts at the consumer center support the advance of the doctors. "In countries like Switzerland and Great Britain, telemedicine is already part of the standard care," said speaker Susanne Mauersberg to the dpa news agency. For certain medical fields, telemedicine is just as good as direct contact between doctor and patient. In her opinion, video consultations will be a normal part of the care in the future. However, not all doctors rate this development as positive in the news agency's announcement. "Many older colleagues still doubt the meaning of telemedicine," says Matina Wenker, Vice President of the German Medical Association. Younger doctors would be more open to technology and the resulting change in the job profile. "For many country doctors like me, the internet is still too bad to offer video consultation," says pediatrician Voigt from Melle near Osnabrück. The family doctor Micha Neubert from Osnabrück has offered an online consultation hour since the beginning of the year. "I want to offer a service to my patients, but I'm still making losses with it," said Neubert.

Distribution of video consultations is still very low

There are almost 379,000 licensed doctors in Germany, but only a few hundred already offer a video consultation. According to the Medical Association, the main reason for the low prevalence lies with the health insurance companies, which pay too little for this service. The monthly cost for software that is suitable for video consultations amounts to 30 to 70 euros per month. The doctor can only claim 800 euros per year for this form of consultation, and only if it is a comparatively cheaper follow-up treatment. (fp)

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