All about teleconsultation

Little known in France just a few weeks ago, teleconsultation has been booming since the coronavirus epidemic. If before containment it represented less than 1% of all consultations in France, nearly 500,000 consultations per week were made remotely during containment as reaching health establishments has become problematic. What do we need to know on the subject? We take stock of teleconsultation.

What is teleconsultation?

Teleconsultation is a remote medical consultation that allows a patient to see his or her doctor without having to travel to the office. The attending physician and the patient communicate via screens, a computer, a smartphone or a tablet. However, consulting a doctor remotely is not possible without an internet connection.

Who can benefit from it and by which health professionals?

All insured persons are entitled to benefit from teleconsultation regardless of their pathology, and this by all doctors regardless of their status (salaried, self-employed), their speciality (paediatrician, gynaecologist, dentist, general practitioner, etc.) and their place of practice (clinic, town office, hospital, nursing home, EHPAD, etc.). This remote monitoring can be done for chronic illnesses or for occasional health concerns.

The medical practices allowed for remote consultation are varied. Gynaecology, ENT, dermatology, ophthalmology, paediatrics, dentistry and psychiatry are regulated by the law and decree of October 2010, but more recently, with the covid-19 crisis, other professions have also been authorised by decree to follow their patients at a distance, namely nurses and midwives.

It should be noted, however, that teleconsultation is not recommended for a thorough physical examination. If required, the practitioner may suggest a doctor's office appointment with him or a colleague.

What are the teleconsultation platforms?

There are secure and specialized platforms dedicated to teleconsultation. Exchanges via applications such as FaceTime®, Skype® or WatsApp® are not recommended as their content is confidential and sensitive. Consult your doctor by referring to the list available on the French Ministry of Health website. Doctolib, TokTokDoc, MonMedecin, Consulib, MediConsult or ConsultationEasy are listed there although they are not approved by the government for health data management. In any case, these platforms are referenced because they declare full data protection.

How to do a teleconsultation?

To do a teleconsultation, you must first contact your attending physician to arrange an appointment. Usually, a link is sent to you so that you can connect at the scheduled time of the consultation on the chosen platform. Before starting, the GP must obtain your consent. A teleconsultation takes place just like an ordinary medical consultation with the only difference being that it is done remotely.

At the end of the session, the health professional will issue a prescription if necessary. Whether it is a prescription for medication or a prescription for additional tests, the prescription will be sent to you in paper format by mail or in electronic format by e-mail. In all cases, this must be done under conditions that ensure confidentiality and data security.

When the teleconsultation is completed, the medical doctor writes a report to be filed in the patient's medical record. This report can be forwarded to the patient's treating physician if the physician with whom the consultation took place is not. This ensures better follow-up and facilitates coordinated care by health professionals.