Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic to start virtual medical consultations for HIV-AIDS patients

Two hundred patients are already attended by webcam. The number is expected to grow to 500 over next two years.

CNA / Lluís Vilaró / Ignacio Portela Giráldez

April 8, 2011 12:01 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Hospital Clínic in Barcelona has started a virtual consultation system for HIV-infected patients who will be attended by doctors through a webpage and a webcam. It is estimated that the system will reduce by half the time patients spend getting to the hospital and the duration of the visits. Patients will have regulated visits and will be able to ask questions to the doctors, who will answer them in less than 24 hours. At the moment, the Hospital deals with 200 of over 4,000 HIV-infected patients through the use of this pioneer virtual system and it is planned that the number will grow to 500 patients over the next couple of years.

Those patients treated by this system must have their disease under control and an internet connection in their homes. These are the only requisites according to Josep Maria Gatell, Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases. On average, it is estimated that HIV-infected patients visit the Hospital eight times a year. Thanks to the virtual system, this number can be reduced to four, as patients only have to go to the Hospital for medical analysis.

As well as these virtual visits, doctors can also send antiretroviral treatments by courier to the patient’s house. The webpage allows patients and doctors, always in strict confidence, to check the patient’s clinical history and the results of both treatments and analysis. All these virtual visits are regulated by a schedule, but the patient also has the possibility of using the webpage to ask doctors any kind of question related to the disease or the treatment at any anytime. The answers are always given in less than 24 hours, according to Dr. Gatell.

José Miguel is a HIV-infected patient, currently being treated under this system. He assures that it is far more comfortable that normal visits “you can be treated more comfortably, from your house, with a coffee in your hand”. José is retired, but he explained that such a system would be particularly useful for working people, as they do not need to lose time getting to the Hospital for their consultations.