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Doctor will see you now – via videolink

A trial period for a 'virtual' doctor's consultation in Burgundy has been a success

An automated medical ‘cabin’ aimed at providing a diagnosis to patients living in a ‘medical desert’, has been deemed a success after a nine-month trial period.

The ‘Consult Station’ was created by Franck Baudino, a former doctor behind start-up company 4HD, and installed at a pharmacy in Roanne, Burgundy.

While it will never replace actual hands-on medicine, it does represent a different option for rural areas where there are not enough doctors – as it gives an interface between the patient and healthcare professional.

Patients can join a doctor remotely for a ‘tele-consultation’ via videolink on a screen inside the cabin, while those suffering from conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can check their blood pressure, weight and heart rhythm.

Up to 30 tests can be carried out, covering 85% of what a traditional visit to the doctor might include. And the results are always analysed by a living, breathing doctor.

The patient simply inserts their carte vitale in a slot once inside the cabin before beginning their virtual consultation.

The trial’s success paves the way for the cabin to be installed in a more unpopulated rural location later this year.

“With this cabin, we are truly on a sociological change”, said Rémi Bouvier, Managing Director of the Mutualité Française Loire and Haute Loire. ‘We will now install one in a rural area in the coming months.”

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The experiences of 60 patients who used the cabin were collated by a laboratory at Jean Monnet University in Saint-Etienne, who concluded that ‘after initial apprehension, all patients were satisfied with the results.”

Some, however, requested some kind of accompaniment at least during the first session.

While the cabins – the size of a photo booth – are expected to be integrated into existing healthcare ‘ecosystems’, its creator sees no reason why one day they cannot be found in La Poste or a supermarket. One of the aims is to relieve some of the pressure on doctors’ surgeries.

Mr Baudino is confident that they will overcome one key problem with this internet-dependent technology: the areas where wifi is poor also have the fewest doctors. “Our first programme was carried out in Africa, so we know how to operate with poor internet connections or satellite. There will be no problem with this in France!”

It is estimated that more than 2.5million people live in a ‘medical desert’ in France.

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