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Five things to know about remote medical consultations made in France

Remote medical consultations have been reimbursed by the French compulsory health insurance scheme since 15 September 2019. How do they work? Who is eligible? Explanations.

Who is entitled to benefit?

Anyone who is covered by the compulsory health insurance scheme is eligible. However, certain preconditions must be met before a remote medical consultation can be performed. 

In the first place, the decision must be made by the doctor (the patient’s designated doctor, a doctor other than the patient’s designated physician who is consulted directly, or a referred doctor). The doctor is responsible for determining the appropriateness of a remote medical consultation rather than an appointment in the surgery.

The patient must know the doctor who is asked to perform the remote consultation, and the doctor in question must have examined this patient at least once during the last 12 months.

How does this affect the healthcare circuit?

It must be adhered to. If the doctor performing the remote consultation is not the patient’s designated doctor, the latter must have advised the patient to see him or her. 

However, exemptions apply if the patient does not have a designated doctor or if the latter is unavailable and the patient requires urgent medical treatment. He or she must then contact a coordinated regional body. These organisations are established by doctors at the regional level to meet the needs of people who lack access to a designated doctor, including via remote medical consultations.

In emergency situations, the patient can also directly contact certain specialists, such as paediatricians, for a remote consultation. 

To be reimbursed, the patient must have met all of these conditions. It should be noted that any self-employed doctor who has contractually agreed to charge the fees established by the French Social Security system in any speciality, pricing sector or location in Metropolitan France or French overseas departments, can perform a remote medical consultation.

How do remote medical consultations take place?

The procedure is the same as in a doctor’s surgery. 

Patients make an appointment to see their doctor, who send them an Internet link prior to the consultation, which will enable them to access a website or an application via a digital device. 

The doctor makes a diagnosis at the end of the remote consultation for which a prescription may be issued, which will then be sent to the patient via a secure electronic mail service, to guarantee the confidentiality of the discussions, or by post. 

In certain cases, patients can be assisted, by a nurse, for example.

What type of equipment is required?

A desktop or laptop computer, a tablet computer, or a smartphone. A remote medical consultation is a consultation between a doctor and a patient that is carried out at distance. Both parties use webcams to communicate by video.

How much does a remote medical consultation cost?

A remote consultation costs the same as a consultation in a surgery, i.e. from €23 to €58.50, depending on the doctor’s speciality and pricing sector (sector 1 or sector 2).It can be paid for by any of the usual payment methods (online payment, cheque, bank transfer, etc.) according to the doctor’s choice.The reimbursement methods are also identical to those for a traditional consultation

Insurers are already prepared

Like Crédit Agricole Assurances, certain insurers have already incorporated remote medical consultations into their offerings. In this way, a remote medical consultation component has been added to the app Ma Santé (My Health) top-up collective health insurance application.

 

The French are divided about taking the plunge

According to a survey conducted by Harris interactive for Livi (a remote medical consultation platform) at the start of this year, 86% of the French people questioned had heard about remote medical consultations, but only 37% of them claimed to be well informed. 
Nevertheless 73% knew that they are reimbursed by the French Social Security scheme. There is still some debate about the fees and the value of this type of consultation. 
All in all, just over one in two French people (52%) state that they are prepared to try the scheme, with 35 to 49-year-olds (60%), self-employed professionals (68%) and parents (60%) being the most willing categories.  

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