Online consultation platforms have existed for many years, some as telemedicine portals but the popularity of app-based online consultation peaked with the extension of the pandemic. Everything moved online, so did consultation with the doctors.
Online consultations give flexibility to the patients and saves time from traffic jams and parking woes. Likewise, it is convenient to the doctors as well but is it a replacement for a visit to your doctor’s office? Not really. A personal visit to a doctor continues to be the most rewarding and reassuring way of consultation. There is no match for face-to-face communication. Most importantly, a visit to the clinic allows the doctor to examine the patient.
You may still consult a doctor online in specific situations like for senior citizens during the pandemic, patients with limited mobility due to their physical or medical conditions and a routine follow-up visit where the doctor has recently examined you. It is a good alternative to physically visit a doctor but not without a few caveats.
Remember, during an online consultation, the doctors’ freedom to see the document, flip the X-Ray/ CT Films and write notes is limited. Everything happens on the same screen where he is talking to you –usually a mobile screen.
Let us see what are the dos and don’ts to extract the maximum benefit from an online consultation:
Now that you are not driving and wasting your time to find a place to park, you better put the time saved to good use. Organise-your-medical-history. Especially the patients with a long medical history and multiple visits to different doctors for various ailments like diabetes, heart issues, etc. If you are consulting a doctor online, especially for the first time, make sure you have listed all your ailments and a list of current medications that you are already on. Upload this vital information along with the relevant and recent prescriptions. Label them properly and upload them chronologically. You can also put a sticky note with the relevant information while you take a photo of the prescription or a document. The pictures should be clear and the information on them, legible. Always click on a portrait mode to avoid rotating the screen to view. I reject shabbily posted documents and ask the patients to resend them.
No doubt the online consultation gives you the flexibility to meet the doctor at the comfort of your home but you must always show courtesy and sincerity towards the consultation, more than the respect to the doctor attending to you.
This is the way to express your concern about your medical problems and commitment to your health:
- Make sure you are available at the scheduled time.
- Your phone charged.
- Find a spot for yourself with better connectivity and preferably less noisy.
- Please sit down.
- Do not take the doctor’s call while taking a walk or moving from one room to the other and never lying in the bed unless you are too sick to get up.
- Have a paper and pen ready to take down the notes, if needed.
- Keep all your records accessible by your side, so that you can pluck out the relevant document quickly when asked for.
- The entire family need not be in the same room. Only members who are essential for the consultation should be present.
- Please understand, unlike the IT professionals, the doctors are not tuned to having long online video calls. Be concise, crisp and to the point. Listen to the question and answer appropriately.
Are there any don’ts?
- Do not wrap up the entire family’s consultation in one go. Only talk about the patient you have scheduled for, to get the undivided attention of the doctor.
- Now that you have the doctors phone number, do not call for every little issue and for heaven’s sake do not post good morning messages on his/her personal Whatsapp number.
The apps are getting better and sleek with time. More and more features are being added every day. The doctors are also learning to adapt to this new toy. Though the acceptance for online consultation is increasing but will it ever replace the conventional visit to the doctor?
With all its merits and demerits, maybe online consultations are a new norm in making. Let us make the best use of it.
(As shared by Dr. Ashish Jain, Senior Consultant, Max Hospital Saket, Delhi/Noida)