Online medical consultations rolled out in France during coronavirus outbreak

The French government has outlined a series of extra health measures during the cornavirus outbreak - including online medical consultations.

Online medical consultations rolled out in France during coronavirus outbreak
Photo: AFP

As the number of cases in France continue to rise hospitals are enacting their emergency plans in order to cope with the high number of patients.

Many hospitals have set up testing centres in temporary buildings or marquees outside the main building, so that people who need testing can access services without coming into the hospital and potentially infecting staff or vulnerable patients. Medical students and retired doctors are being called in.

You can keep up with the latest situation in France here.

A testing centre in Creteil, near Paris. Photo: AFP

But there are also concerns about community healthcare services, in particular GPs or family doctors.

People who think they may have coronavirus are asked not to visit their local doctor or hospital, but instead to call the ambulance service – on the number 15 – and tell the operator it is a suspected case of coronavirus.

There is also a helpline number – 0800 130 000 – that can deal with all non-medical queries.

But now the health minister has also authorised a relaxation on the rules of télémedicine or online medical consultations.

Online consultations have been available in France under certain circumstances since 2018, but during the coronavirus outbreak health minister Olivier Véran says the government is relaxing the rules and encouraging more people to use them.

The consultations can be used to monitor patients, offer advice or issue medical certificates so that people who are self isolating can claim paid sick leave.

The method allows people who are self isolating to limit their movements and also protects the doctors themselves – one of the first cases recorded in the UK was a GP.

READ ALSO: Healthcare in France: The essential language for a doctor's appointment

Services in Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin, one of the coronavirus cluster zones. Photo: AFP 

So who can access online consultations?

Previously you could only have an online consultation with a general practitioner who you had seen in person over the last year.

This restriction has been temporarily scrapped and anyone with good reason to believe they have or are at risk of getting coronavirus can have an online medical consultation.

Not all doctors offer this service so you don't have to see your registered medicine traitant, but people must see a doctor in their local area, in order to encourage follow up treatment and monitoring.

The online service was first opened up at the end of January for people who had recently returned from coronavirus affected areas of China, but with the spread of the disease it has now been opened up to anyone who has concerns over coronavirus.

How do you access them?

At present most online consultations are offered through the Consulib platform owned by the popular medical app Doctolib. The app's owners said during the outbreak it will waive the sign-up fee for doctors who want to join its platform.

Consulib says it has seen a 40 percent jump in online consultations in the past five days.

Véran, in an interview with FranceInfo, also suggested that doctors could use general platforms such as FaceTime or WhatsApp to contact their patients for online consultations.

And how much does it cost?

In a normal doctor's consultation in France, you pay the doctor – either by cash or bank card – and the doctor then swipes your carte vitale, which allows the government to reimburse the money straight into your bank account.

If you use the Consulib app you register your bank card and carte vitale with the app when you sign up so you can be charged and then reimbursed.

Normally doctors are allowed to charge less for an online appointment than for an in-person one – between €12 and €20 compared to €25 to €30 – but during the coronavirus outbreak, Véran said that doctors will be able to charge the normal consultation fee for an online appointment.

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France’s monkeypox count rises to 277 as first woman contracts virus

France has detected 277 cases of monkeypox, health authorities said Tuesday, June 21st, including the first case in the country of a woman contracting the virus.

France's monkeypox count rises to 277 as first woman contracts virus

The case numbers have risen steeply since the last official figure of 183 cases five days earlier. But there have been no deaths in France attributed to monkeypox.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Until recently, the viral disease had generally been confined to Western and Central Africa but is now present in several continents, particularly Europe.

Among the latest cases recorded in France, “a first female case has been confirmed, the mode of transmission of which is currently being investigated, and all the others are men,” the French national public health agency said in a statement.

So far, the recent outbreak of monkeypox, which is currently affecting some 40 countries, has mainly affected men who have engaged in gay sex.

The World Health Organization is due to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to determine whether to classify the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.

The virus usually clears up after two or three weeks.

Most of the cases identified in France have been found in Paris and its suburbs, though smaller outbreaks have been seen in several regions throughout the country, including Normandy in the north and the Cote d’Azur in the south.

The first monkeypox case in France was discovered on May 20, the same day the virus was detected in neighbouring Germany.