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Doctors approve online consultations

Doctors approve videoconferencing consultations
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Written by Steven Deare on

Australia's medical practitioners have decided online patient consultations such as videoconferencing can be safely used as part of ongoing assistance to patients in rural and remote areas.

In a position statement released last week on online and broadband medical consultations, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said the technology would be particularly useful in serving regional and rural communities.

"For patients living in rural and remote areas who cannot easily see a doctor face-to-face, or to provide specialised support, online consultations may be essential," said AMA president Mukesh Haikerwal.

The effectiveness of online consultations has been debated within the medical community due to fears the practice cannot offer the same level of patient care as face-to-face ones.

However, the AMA has stressed online consultations can never be the same as face-to-face communications.

"Seeing a patient over a broadband connection can never be the same as a face-to-face consultation and examination," said Haikerwal.

"In most circumstances, the AMA only supports online consultations where a relationship already exists between the patient and the doctor.

"And we have advised doctors that if they want to hold online consultations, they must first ask the patient to consent in writing to strict terms and conditions outlining the type of care that can be provided through such consultations."

Other principles that the AMA stated must be adhered to include that online consultations can only be used as an "adjunct" to normal medical practice. Also it is up to individual doctors to determine whether he or she provide online medical care to patients.

The AMA also called for a national regulatory framework to govern the use of clinical software in medical practice.

The use of such software packages is growing rapidly, according to AMA, but no standards exist to for potential buyers to assess systems.

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