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A new report recommends regulations and strong incentives
On behalf of the Ministry of Health and Care Services, the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Directorate of eHealth have investigated the use of video appointments. Their report was published January 18, 2019, and it estimates that 1 in 5 doctor’s appointments can be made over video. To encourage more PCPs to use video, the report recommends a number of incentives, changes, and regulations.
Encouraging PCPs to use existing solutions
The directorates recommend that PCPs adopt video calling solutions that are already available on the market, and which meet their requirements.
In the long run, the goal is to make it easy to book video appointments through Health Norway (Norway’s digital health platform for citizens), but the directorates do not recommend creating a central video appointment system. Instead, the existing video tools will be integrated into Health Norway, and it is expected that this will be done by 2020. Confrere is already a part of this work.
A recommended incentive of 10,000 NOK for the first PCPs to adopt video appointments
The report’s socio-economic calculations regarding Norway indicate that video appointments are very profitable for society as a whole, and the report therefore believes that strong financial incentives should be provided to encourage PCPs to get started with video appointments.
One of the proposals is to provide a one-time grant of 10,000 NOK to the first one thousand PCPs to offer both video appointments and text consultations through Health Norway before 2020. Details on how this is to be organized or funded are not dealt with in the report.
Requiring video appointments
Another proposal from the report is to require PCPs to offer both text and video consultations. The report suggests that Norway's regulations for general practitioners stipulate that they offer these e-consultations in conjunction with Health Norway's web-based booking portal. It predicts that the earliest such a regulation can be enforced is January 1, 2021.
The political signals have been clear for a while
The report is now under consideration by the Ministry of Health and Care Services, but this isn’t the first time that video appointments and other types of e-consultations have made their way into various government declarations within Norway. In the last two years, two have stated that they will “introduce the requirement for PCPs to offer e-consultations to those who wish to have them.”
As early as October 2017, Minister of Health Bent Høie stated in a meeting organized by the Consumer Council that he expects that video appointments will be an ordinary part of the PCP’s practice within just a few years. The political signals have been clear for a while.
The report asserts that the goal of digitization in the healthcare sector is for patients to be more independent and have greater access to an overview of and influence over their own treatment. It is hoped that digitization can relieve PCPs of the onslaught of duties they experience, but the arguments mentioned in the report are most often on behalf of a better experience for patients.
You can also read about the PCP's gatekeeper role in the digital era.