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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 09:37 GMT
Texting doctor cuts waiting times
Dr Badal Pal
Dr Badal Pal has mobile communication with patients
One GP has turned to the mobile phone to ensure closer contact with his patients.

Doctor Badal Pal who is a consultant rheumatologist at South Manchester University Hospital in the UK is using text messaging to communicate with patients and cut down waiting times for medical results.

Instead of waiting weeks, patients need only send a text message to Dr Pal three or four days after their tests in order to get results within hours.

Dr Pal does not have the patient's phone number himself but gives them his own after seeing them in his clinic.

Not abused

Using their name and date of birth to identify themselves, patients can get in touch for test results and will also be sent reminders if they need regular check-ups or for their next appointment.

The system is not 100% secure but so far Dr Pal, who has been using the system for about a year, has had no problems.

"People don't really abuse it," he said.

The system has proved popular with patients and he has even had people texting him while aboard, one all the way from Thailand.

The system is due for an upgrade, with software being installed that will link the messages direct to his PC from April.

Previously Dr Pal had used e-mail to keep in touch with his patients.

But he feels that the universal nature of mobile phones makes it a system hard to beat as a way of providing timely contact between doctor and patient.

He has found it invaluable for patients but agrees that not all doctors would feel the same.

"It all depends on the individual doctor. A lot of consultants are so busy that they wouldn't consider this as a priority," he said.

The system would not be suitable for sensitive results such as those for cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

Dr Pal is looking forward to technology advances such as camera and videophones which he believes will play a crucial role in patient care.

"This type of technology can be used to improve access to specialist advice particularly in rural areas or the developing world," he told the BBC's Go Digital programme.

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