Skype Doctors

I saw this story about e-medi help and remote diagnosing and it reminded me of one of my first exposures to the power of ICTs in bridging the services gap for people. It was on a World Bank field visit during a summer project back in 2006, we were going around the country visiting project sites of the ‘e-Sri Lanka’ initiative funded by the Bank and implemented by the ICTAgency. We stopped at the Kurunegala teaching hospital to witness how doctors were using Skype to help patients get preliminary diagnoses for complicated illnesses from specialist doctors based in Colombo. This had transformed the time and cost incurred by people living in Kurunegala and beyond – they could avoid the full travel to Colombo and obtain initial diagnosis via Skype from the medi kiosk at the hospital, and also use it for more regular follow ups and checks up with specialists without travelling to Colombo and staying in long queues.

This article about how it’s playing out in the US is more about direct patient to doctor contact through Skype from home, especially in emergencies. Yet this has important implications for medical care contexts where demand services are severely tretched beyond the resources available and what can be offered and how quickly.

“She sat with her laptop on her living room couch, went online and requested a virtual consultation. She typed in her symptoms and credit card number, and within half an hour, a doctor appeared on her screen via Skype. He looked her over, asked some questions and agreed she had sinusitis. In minutes, Ms. DeVisser, a stay-at-home mother, had an antibiotics prescription called in to her pharmacy.

The same forces that have made instant messaging and video calls part of daily life for many Americans are now shaking up basic medical care. Health systems and insurers are rushing to offer video consultations for routine ailments, convinced they will save money and relieve pressure on overextended primary care systems in cities and rural areas alike. And more people like Ms. DeVisser, fluent in Skype and FaceTime and eager for cheaper, more convenient medical care, are trying them out.”


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