The NHS has said it is OK for doctors to carry out online consultations via video conferencing tools as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
The health service has given medical professionals clearance to use PC tools such as Skype along with mobile offerings like WhatsApp and FaceTime in order to cut down on physical meetings.
The UK has now recorded over 25,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with nearly 1,800 deaths, and the government has introduced extreme social distancing measures to try and lessen the strain on the NHS.
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NHS video conferencing
The update was included as part of a government advisory notice for health and care professionals on the NHSX site, the arm of the health service tasked with improving the UK's healthcare through technology.
"We encourage the use of videoconferencing to carry out consultations with patients and service users," the notice said. "This could help to reduce the spread of Covid-19. It is fine to use video conferencing tools such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime as well as commercial products designed specifically for this purpose."
"The consent of the patient or service user is implied by them accepting the invite and entering the consultation. But you should safeguard personal/confidential patient information in the same way you would with any other consultation."
The advisory also notes that, "it is absolutely fine" for doctors to use mobile messaging services to communicate with colleagues and patients as needed. This includes popular consumer apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram, so long as, "there is no practical alternative and the benefits outweigh the risk."
Doctors have been told they can use their own devices for video consultations, mobile messaging or home working, "where there is no practical alternative". NHSX advises prfoessionals to ensure their device is protected, with a strong password and using secure channels such as apps that use encryption.
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