Health Informatics Discussion Forum

Should doctors use Skype for consultations?

A hospital in the UK is using Skype for consultations with patients:

A hospital is set to become the first in Europe to tackle waiting times by getting overworked doctors to consult with their patients via Skype.

Managers at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire claim using the online video calling service could reduce outpatient appointments by up to 35 per cent.

They argue that using Skype will help free up consultants' time and car parking spaces – while also helping patients who are unable to take time off work.

If approved, they would become the first UK hospital to use Skype to consult with patients.

The proposals, by Staffordshire's biggest hospital, also include doctors treating patients via email consultations.

Do you think Skype is a good tool for this kind of communication? We have seen lots of expensive telemedicine systems over the years and I have always wondered why doctors don't just use Skype. The medico-legal risks are pretty much the same as far as I can see. What do you think?

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      • I think it is a difficult balance to tread - the public are rightly cautious about over-zealous use of technology that have repercussions that haven't been explored yet. Things like Skype, that have been around for a long time, see to be trusted enough now. Perhaps it just takes a bit of time for people to adjust to things before they can be comfortably introduced.

        There is one company in the US that has been doing lots of innovative work in remote consultations: - perhaps a model that more could follow.

  • skype definitely sounds promising as long as the issues of information privacy and security are considered and taken care of. again too, how can the consultations be recorded for proper record keeping ?

    • I don't think you would need to record the skype call for the record, the doctor could make notes in his EMR system as he would do in a normal consultation. Having a video record might be useful though if it was feasible.

  • Hi all,

    This topic is amazing.

    I am the clinic manager and nurse manager at a health care clinic and thank you for this discussion, I am now considering implementing Skype as a means of communication. Some of our patients live 5 hours away and it is difficult to arrange a time that works for us and for the patient to come for a consultation with the doctor.

    We are already a mostly email-based clinic, as most of the communication with our patients is via email - including doctor - staff communication and doctor - patients and patients - staff. We found email decreases the time staff spends on the phone with a patient, increases the efficiency of health care provided and we are able to see / take care of patients in a more timely fashion. The only downfall I noticed from email communication is the personal relationship aspect decreases a little bit - however, even with this taken in consideration, our feedback from patients is that they love the email communication as it's fast, to the point and very modern to that aspect. We do live in a fast paced society and email seems to work very well. 


    I think Skype would get along with the email very nicely as well. 

    • Hi All

      I currently work for the NHS in Wales as a Multimedia Technician

      I help support nearly 1000 Video Conference Units across the NHS in Wales and offer assistance in helping connect users to point to point conferences, Multipoint Conferences and connections to NHS England Sites aswell as globally e.g. Conferences with Medical Users across the World

      Skype is an interesting option which has been looked at with the pluses and negatives

      I think the Security & Information Governance wrap around with Patient Identifiable Data is very important as the product has to offer the confidentiality and high security protection, so the factors for Skype would need to be signed off at a National Level.

      With Microsoft's Acquisition of Skype into its portfolio and the possibility of it integrating with Microsoft Lync as a plug-in, it could be a viable option for connecting patients on the Internet with the GP's on the NHS Network with a regulated Demilitarized Zone.

      It is interesting reading all the views of others in this discussion and hopefully it is something that can be pushed forward to improve Patient Care.



  • Considering this would be limited to outpatient appointments, on the surface the use of Skype seems pretty resonable. However, a couple of points present as a concern.

    For example, security of information- there would need to be a way to confirm that indeed it is the correct patient, and somehow prove that on record in order to uphold the patient history and protect both parties legally(patient-doctor).

    Also, usually vital signs are taken and recorded each visit. This would be plausible if some sort of application could be used in real time during the Skype appointment to annotate this data; leaving it up to the patient to report their information on their own for each check up could be misleading and harmful.

    There are also a lot of characteristics that a doctor observes in a patient from the moment he/she walks in the door. This aspect of clinical observation & examination would be completely lost- a problem that in my personal opinion is growing in Western Medicine.
    Finally, I think it would be a bit difficult on the administration aspect of these appointments to regulate timing and quality of the program. If the patient is running late for example, or from their end the internet reception is poor etc.

    All in all, I do like the idea because it could provide a more efficient reach of doctors to low risk patients. However I still think there is a lot to solve before launching such a program.
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