Video medical consultations not for everyone

Patients ought to understand the limitations of video consultations before they start asking for them (Video consultations handy for patients; April 13).

A standard clinic consultation includes looking into a patient's medical history, a physical examination, laboratory or imaging investigations, and implementing treatment such as medications and, maybe, surgery.

While video consultation allows history taking and a two-way conversation, it would not be possible to perform a complete physical examination.

For instance, when a man sees me for abdominal pain, examining his general well-being and abdomen are essential in getting the right diagnosis.

After examination, I may order laboratory tests and imaging studies to evaluate his pain, which would require him to physically visit a laboratory and the imaging facilities.

If I require him to undergo an endoscopic examination, I would need to obtain informed consent as well as perform financial counselling, which would require him to physically sign the appropriate forms.

Video consultation is limited to consultations which do not require physical examination, investigation and operative treatment.

Storage of the video consultation is another issue.

The Ministry of Health requires medical institutions to keep all records for six years.

A video file of each consultation would occupy sizeable storage space.

On top of this, the medical institution would have to have security measures in place to prevent illegal access to these files.

Instead of investing in video and Internet equipment for video consultation, perhaps just calling on your doctor at his office would be simpler and cheaper.

Desmond Wai (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2017, with the headline 'Video medical consultations not for everyone'. Print Edition | Subscribe