In Belgium, video consultations are about to become reality. Still, this form of telemedicine has many advantages, both for patients and doctors. A new initiative combines this kind of consultations with yet another trend: that of (health) service on demand.
‘See a doctor anywhere, anytime’ reads the homepage of www.ViViDoctor.com. It summarizes well what the application stands for. The website offers a reservation system that allows patients to book an appointment for specific medical complaints with a doctor at a distance. The consultation then takes place via video conversation between doctor and patient.
With Vividoctor, the founders want to ‘bring healthcare to the people’, explains CEO Sidar Ok. ‘See it as a virtual visit to a Doctor’ (Vividoctor stands for virtual visit doctor, ed.).
‘Many patients postpone a doctor’s visit due to lack of time, often because they would have to travel quite a distance to get specialist care.This is costly. Patients who do go to the doctor, need a lot of patience in the waiting room. Doctors, in turn, often have to deal with patients who don’t show up.’
0-min Waiting Time
A video consultation system which lets patients drive the appointment agenda solves these problems, says Sidar Ok. ‘First of all, doctors and patients no longer need to travel. Secondly, they can book their appointment at a time most convenient to them – today, tomorrow, or in a week. We ensure that there is a doctor available at the booked time.’
Patients who desire an immediate appointment, need to wait 11 minutes on average. For other appointments there is no waiting time. ‘Reason is that our video consultations last 10 minutes exactly. Consultations do not have delays. This allows both the patient and the doctor to better organize themselves.’
Sounds promising, but to consult these doctors you need a computer or other mobile device and an internet connection. ‘In 2015, 98.8% of all households had a broadband connection of minimum 30 Mbps’, says Sidar Ok. ‘82% of these households had a computer. Five years ago this concept may not have taken of, but today this is a totally different story.’
Medical Guidelines Making All Easier and Efficient
The big question is whether it is possible to have a consultation for only 10 minutes? ‘Based on scientific research, we have, in collaboration with our Chief Medical Director Vincent Qin, established guidelines about complaints which are ‘treatable’ within a video consultation of that duration.’
With treatment Sidar Ok means: diagnose, follow up of a complaint, advice, and prescribe medicine. ‘Of course we won’t do surgeries at a distance, we only do what is possible remotely.’ Specialists in the database of ViVidoctor consult on diabetes, dermatology, stroke, oncology, pediatrics, psychiatry and wound care. An example of a dermatological consult is for instance the follow up after radio therapy. ‘How does a patient react to the treatment, does he not have too many side-effects?’, explains Sidar Ok.
ViViDoctor also collaborates with family doctors. They consult about cold, flu, fatigue, diarrhea/ nausea and other ‘simple’ complaints.All these complaints are listed on the website, so patients know which kind of appointments they can book, explains Sidar Ok.
During the reservation procedure, patients need to introduce their symptoms and background information, so the doctor can start the conversation prepared. During the first two minutes of the conversation, the doctor asks additional questions, so as to ensure that the complaint can be treated within the video consultation. ‘This to avoid that the doctor determines in the middle of the conversation that the complaint requires a physical visit. When this is the case, the consultation stops immediately and the patient does not need to pay anything.’
Is there a risk that patients will ‘abuse’ this system to get a prescription easily? ‘Given that the conversation can last up until 10 minutes, the doctor has 10 minutes time to ask questions about the prescription’, says Sidar Ok. ‘Today these prescriptions are still sent by regular mail, in the near future this will be done electronically. In 2017 this will be possible to do via Recip-e.’
On-going Pilot Projects
Contrary to physical medical consultation where you pay at the end, patients here pay upfront, says Sidar Ok. This to avoid the known problem of no-shows. You can opt to pay for a one-time consult, or choose from different subscriptions. As an illustration: a one year prescription for one person boils down to 10 euro per month. With such subscription, patients can book as many video-consultations with Vividoctor-family doctors as they would like.