In view of the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is uncertainty regarding the perception of doctor’s appointments. Many patients are avoiding their usual visit to the doctor’s office. However, if the visit is urgently needed, this could rarely be avoided until a year ago.
Because of the heavy burden on the health care system, it was necessary to find new solutions. Video consultation is a modern and secure service that protects patients, doctors and the practice team. In addition, the digital service ensures that patients with suspected corona infection do not need to visit a healthcare facility, minimizing the risk of infection.
The potential of video consultation is obvious. Contacts with possible infected patients can be reduced and good patient care can still be maintained. It also saves the user time and money.
The hype of remote care continues. Usage increased from near zero to 1.2 million video consultations held (June 2020). Figures from the „Zentralinstitut für die kassenärztliche Versorgung“(Zi) show increasing growth compared to the previous year, when only 583 video consultations were held with panel doctors. Psychotherapists have also reacted quickly and are now increasingly using the video consultation service.
The technical requirements for the doctor’s office and the video service provider – in particular for technical security and data protection – are regulated in Annex 31b to the „Bundesmantelvertrag-Ärzte“. The video service provider must be certified and have submitted a self-disclosure to the „Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung“ (KBV) and the „GKV-Spitzenverband“. In order to be able to use this service without any problems, the technology used and the electronic data transmission must ensure appropriate communication.
The KBV describes a detailed procedure for a video consultation on its homepage:
The doctor or psychotherapist registers with a certified video service provider of his or her choice. The provider sends further information on dialing into the video consultation to the doctor’s office.
The patient receives a free appointment for the video consultation either via the doctor’s office or – for example, in the case of an open consultation – via the video service provider.
The patient must give his or her consent before the first video consultation – either via the video service provider or directly via the doctor or psychotherapist, depending on the system.
The patient and the doctor or psychotherapist dial in to the video service provider. The patient waits in the online waiting room until he is connected by the doctor or psychotherapist.
Once the video consultation is over, both parties log off from the website. The doctor or psychotherapist documents the treatment in the PVS („Privatärztliche Verrechnungsstelle“).
Participation in a virtual consultation usually takes place with the help of an access code. For this purpose, the patient is quickly and reliably sent an SMS with the link to the corresponding “waiting room” including the code.
Message Networks, as an experienced mobile messaging provider, guarantees secure and direct delivery of the SMS required for dialing in to the video service provider to the users’ mobile devices. The delivery meets the highest security and data protection requirements through technologies such as IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure).
Personal and direct contact between doctor and patient remains irreplaceable. With the video consultation, there is now a contemporary alternative to the doctor’s office visit due to the pandemic. Patients with chronic illnesses in particular will benefit in the future from this supplementary service, which will save them a great deal of time and money thanks to modern technology. In the future, the wide range of remote care options will play an increasingly important role in modern patient care.