Dr Cobus van Niekerk discusses the pros and cons in virtual consults for aesthetic and cosmetic procedures.
We learn about epidemics and pandemics at university, but never for the life of me, did I expect that I would live through one, as I am sure every one of you didn’t expect it either. Indeed, extraordinary times lead to extraordinary measure – with medical consultations and aesthetic medicine being no exception.
Enter the age of telehealth and virtual consultations
While the HPCSA has never condoned telehealth, they have relaxed their strict rules during the covid-19 pandemic, with doctors now being allowed to attend to their patients using virtual consultations. In this the 4th industrial revolution, if we do not keep abreast of technological developments, we will certainly be left behind.
The positives and negatives
As with anything in life, there are both pros and cons when attending a virtual consultation.
The pros are that of convenience, where patients can consult from the comfort of their homes/office (during lunchtime of course), thereby saving time on travelling, and travelling costs. There is also the reduced risk of infection compared to that of a face to face consultation, as well as a reduction in consultation fees for virtual consults.
The cons can be that doctors don’t have the equipment to make proper assessments of the patient e.g. skin analysis and three-dimensional evaluation, patient confidentiality issues, lack of the ability to apply informed consent correctly, connectivity issues, difficulty to grasp technology – and needless to say – an impersonal experience.
Virtual consult at work
Firstly, the doctor will confirm an appointment with you (and hopefully they will not run late), so leave yourself appropriate time. Make sure you know the program the doctor will be using, and log in five minutes before your allotted time. Make sure you have received written informed consent from the doctor as to how to conduct the virtual consult, and of course, what to expect.
I would definitely advise that you know the doctor and have no doubt about their code of morals and ethics. I, therefore, would only offer virtual consultations to patients that I know. Do not expose yourself in ways that your privacy may be used inappropriately, for example, a gynaecological rejuvenation.
Building a rapport
Successful relationships between practitioners and patients depend on mutual trust, established by respecting patient autonomy (the right to make decisions to undergo or not undergo treatment, even if refusal may cause harm).
Patients should be given sufficient information in an understandable way so that they can make an informed decision about their care (informed consent).
Without a doubt, effective communication is key to enable patients to make informed decisions. Practitioners must find out what patients want, and ought to know about conditions and treatments. Dialogue leads to clarity of objectives and understandings, ultimately affirming the patient-practitioner relationship. Patients who make properly informed decisions are more likely to cooperate with agreed management of their conditions and treatments.
The National Patient’s Rights Charter give patients several rights and responsibilities which practitioners should adhere to.
|1. A healthy and safe environment|
|2. Participation in decision making|
|3. Access to healthcare|
|4. Knowledge of one’s health insurance / medical scheme|
|5. Choice of health services|
|6. Treated by the named practitioner|
|7. Confidentiality and privacy|
|8. Informed consent|
|9. Refusal of treatment|
|10. Second opinion|
|11. Continuity of care|
|12. Complaints about health services|
However, it has to be stressed that patients, in return, have responsibilities too…
Responsibilities of the patient:
|1. To take care of their own health|
|2. To care for and protect the environment|
|3. To respect the rights of other patients and healthcare providers|
|4. To utilise the health system properly and not abuse it|
|5. To know their local health services and what they offer|
|6. To provide providers with relevant and accurate information for diagnostic, treatment, rehabilitation and counselling purposes|
|7. To advise practitioner of their wishes with regard to their death (advance directives)|
|8. To comply with the prescribed treatment and rehabilitation procedures|
|9. To enquire about related costs of treatment and/or rehabilitation, and to arrange payment|
|10. To take care of health records in their possession|
Practitioners should always regard concern for the best interests or well-being of their patients as their primary professional duty and honour the trust of their patients.
Remind yourself that the doctor is in a position of power, and should avoid abusing that position.
Furthermore, practitioners should be accessible to patients or make arrangements for when they aren’t. Don’t allow any form of prejudice to take place (including that of race, culture, ethnicity, social status, lifestyle, disability, sexual orientation, religious or spiritual beliefs, and any condition of vulnerability).
Take home message
As tempting as virtual consultations may seem, remain vigilant, and remember that our information is not as secure as when consulting face-to-face. Know your doctor and their qualifications, and do not reveal intimate regions of your body.
Other than that, this may be our new normal for a while to come, so why not try a virtual consultation with your trusted aesthetic provider?
Written by Dr Cobus van Niekerk
MBChB (Pret), BMedSc Hons (Stell), MRCS A&E (Edin)
- Heads up the Dr Cobus & Associates medical practice: www.drcobus.co.za
- Actively involved in SAMA
- Member of AAMSSA (AAMSSA Medic-legal and Ethics Chairperson)
- Founder member of the SAACD – assisted with SAMA affiliation for AAMSSA as well as SAACD
- Member of the AAAM
To report any unsafe practice or if you have any queries please feel free to contact Karen Nel at AAMSSA firstname.lastname@example.org
Find a doctor practising aesthetic medicine in South Africa by visiting www.aestheticdoctors.co.za
A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice.
This article was written by Dr Cobus van Niekerk and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine Spring 2020 Edition (Issue 34). All original articles are owned by A2 Magazine, to make use of any of our content for re-publishing, kindly contact us for approval email@example.com
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