de Bruijn ACP, Hegger I, Moltó Puigmartí CP, de Vries CGJCA, Bijwaard H, de Waard IR
RIVM Report 2017-0171
Internet has made possible to exchange medical data. Telediagnostics enables a diagnosis to be made remotely. The person making the diagnosis does not see the patient and has to be able to trust the information sent remotely. In an exploratory study, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has documented the benefits and disadvantages of the use of telediagnostics in the health services in the Netherlands. The focus was specifically on telediagnostics in dermatology and radiology, two areas of practice in which it is frequently used.
Telediagnostics is principally used for consultations between health care professionals, such as a general practitioner and medical specialist, or between radiologists. Another of its uses is collection of medical data by patients, e.g. blood pressure readings or blood sugar levels, whereby the care provider makes the diagnosis from a different site.
One great advantage of telediagnostics is the time that it saves, both for doctor and patient. The patient no longer needs to travel to see the doctor, and the doctor can consult a colleague at an arbitrary time. In addition, it is often arranged so that there is no waiting time to consult a medical specialist. Telediagnostics enables doctors to share their expertise more widely, and it also lightens the burden on the patient if they are actively able to monitor their disease. Added advantages are the general practitioner does not need to make as many referrals, and medical data are recorded immediately and correctly.
A few measures need to be taken to limit the risk of an incorrect diagnosis or a breach of the patient's privacy, and to ensure that the care is available to the patient. These include good ICT facilities, skilled health care professionals, clear instructions for the patients, and sufficient support within the care organisation to be able to work with the system. It is also important that health care professionals make unequivocal arrangements about their collaboration when using telediagnostics. Professional practice guidelines describing how telediagnostics can be used in a medically responsible way are still under development in the Netherlands.