Reader Question: I saw a sign for téléconsultations in my local chemist. Who can use this?
Téléconsultation refers to consulting a doctor remotely, usually by internet.
In some areas, particularly where there is a shortage of doctors, there have been efforts to offer special stations for this at pharmacies in a bid to ease pressure on hospital emergency departments.
A closed room must be provided for pharmacy-based téléconsultations to guarantee privacy.
A connected stethoscope, otoscope, oximeter and blood pressure monitor must also be provided so basic health checks can be undertaken.
Some pharmacies have arrangements with groups of other healthcare professionals so people can access help in this way even when it is not with their own GP (médecin traitant) and in some cases on a ‘drop-in’ basis without an appointment.
Pharmacy staff can help
This raises questions over reimbursement levels as, usually, those in the French healthcare system should go via their GP whenever possible or reimbursements are reduced (with the shortfall often not compensated by mutuelle insurance).
If in doubt speak to the pharmacy staff. Full reimbursement may, for example, be allowed if it is not possible for you to consult your own GP in a reasonable amount of time.
In a pharmacy we visited, equipped by a group called Medadom, the patient inserts their carte Vitale, puts on headphones and, after receiving a code on their mobile, can speak to a health professional.
The state-reimbursed part of the care usually does not have to be paid across by the patient in such instance.
In most cases, teleconsultations are more suited to milder issues or in some cases prescription renewals. You should always go to an emergency unit for something serious.