28.05.2015

Videoconferencing to improve primary healthcare for patients with reduced mobility

Image | Daniel Iván

If we looked down on Barcelona from the air, we would see hundreds of people moving about from one place to the other, attending to their daily tasks. But there are also scores of people for whom, due to their limited mobility or chronic diseases, completing day-to-day tasks, like shopping, is a challenge. In these cases somebody can always go for them, but what about when they need to see a doctor?

Until now all citizens with reduced mobility or chronic diseases impeding them from visiting their Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) always received house calls, which entailed serious costs and personnel investments. In order to provide a solution to this problem the City of Barcelona’s Health Bureau, along with the Sardenya Primary Healthcare Team, Barcelona’s Official Association of Physicians and the i2Cat Foundation, are supporting a pilot programme that, through a technological platform, will facilitate contact between patients and their general practitioners.

The tool, which will be available via computer or smartphone, will make possible visual, interactive contact between the doctor and the patient, thereby simulating aspects of a real consultation. Once plans are made to follow up with a “teleconsultation,” the doctor contacts the patient at the scheduled day and time via videoconference. To make this connection possible it is essential that the patient have a smart device with a front camera and an Internet connection, which make it possible for the doctor to observe the patient’s general condition and his/her surroundings.

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In the long term plans call for the platform to feature more follow-up and remote control instruments, such as the taking of vital signs, forms, tests and parameter assessments. In a second phase the possibility of the system permitting electronic prescription downloads and the gathering of biomedical data will be considered. At this time the version for computers is in a testing phase, and its adaptation for smartphones is still under development.

Senior citizens will be able to make extensive use of the service, as will those who need adapted means of transport, and all those for whom travel to their PHCs is too costly.

The Sardenya PHC’s pioneering initiative will be widely applied to other primary healthcare centres across the city, such as the Larrard PHC and those in the Vila Olímpica and La Barceloneta districts.

There is no longer any excuse not to see your doctor. Thanks to society’s digital transformation, patients with mobility issues may see their doctors from the comfort of their own homes.