While COVID has helped virtual GP and specialists appointments to become more common, the technology has roots much further back than the pandemic.
The earliest versions were in response to a range of issues across the world, including the difficulties of providing health care to remote populations, and trying to streamline processes to reduce waiting times.
Hawke’s Bay specialist dermatologist Juber Hafiji used some of those “early clunky” versions while working in Cambridge, in the UK, more than 10 years ago. “Compared to back then today’s streamlined technology is fantastic – the reliability of the internet for most people and the clarity of the images makes this a very real option.”
By the end of last week, he had already held more than 50 virtual consultations during lockdown. “The feedback has been great. I’ve had all ages of people use it with varying levels of technological abilities and they have all found it very easy.”
Dr Hafiji had always intended to set up virtual consultation technology at his clinic but this latest COVID lockdown had brought the project forward. “We had a few days of set up and then we were ready to go.”
He says dermatology is ideally suited for the technology. “While for some conditions we will always need an in-person appointment, for things like growths on the skin, rashes, acne, hair loss, and for follow-up appointments it is perfectly suited.”
It will not only be useful during COVID-related lockdowns. “For people who live out of the region, or have trouble getting out of the house because of a disability or illness, or for people who would rather use the technology to save time away from work or family, it is really useful.”
Dr Hafiji expects the technology to become “much more normal”, especially now that it is so simple to use and specialist medical programmes provide the level of security required for the handling of personal information.