Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime for consultations is fine, NHS tells doctors as it ramps up video conferencing

Cutting back on face-to-face consultations means a rapid increase in videoconferencing in healthcare.

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The NHS is speeding up the roll-out of video-consultation services to doctors in a bid to reduce face-to-face contact with patients during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

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The UK's health service said it was essential to reduce contact to protect patients and staff, and to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection. As most people are now staying at home , the NHS also needs to support doctors to care for people remotely.

SEE: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

NHSX, NHS England and NHS Improvement said they are accelerating the deployment of video-consultation systems. For doctors' surgeries that don't have these systems in place yet, the NHS said it's also fine to use video-conferencing tools such as Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime, "as well as commercial products designed specifically for this purpose".

Doctors can also use mobile messaging to communicate with colleagues and patients as needed, the NHS said: "It is also fine to use commercial, off-the-shelf applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram where there is no practical alternative and the benefits outweigh the risk.

"We will need to work in different ways from usual and the focus should be what information you share and who you share it with, rather than how you share it," said NHSX in its advice for health and care professionals.