Two NHS video-consultation services have been planned for Raasay and Kyle of Lochalsh.
The Near Me feature will be installed in healthcare facilities across the Highlands to ensure everyone as equitable access to the service.
As well as the staffed clinics being put in place in four of the board’s Community Hospitals, patients can now use dedicated unstaffed rooms in seven different locations across the region - with another eight to follow soon.
The board ultimately plans that most patients will use the NHS Near Me web-based platform to attend out-patient appointments from their own homes using video devices on their own computers, smartphones or tablets.
The unstaffed rooms with easy-to-use computer equipment for NHS Near Me have been set up to ensure patients who can’t connect from home are not excluded.
NHS Highland’s NHS Near Me lead, Clare Morrison, said: “The opening of these NHS Near Me rooms mark the end of the first phase of the installation of the unstaffed version of the NHS Near Me Service.”
“Our experience of using NHS Near Me in Caithness, and an earlier project using video consulting technology at home showed that not everyone has a smartphone, computer or good internet connection. That’s why we have put these unstaffed rooms in: so everyone can access the NHS Near Me Service.”
Over the next couple of months devices will be installed in Ullapool, Raasay, Kyle of Lochalsh, Fort Augustus, Mallaig, Strontian, Grantown on Spey, and Kingussie.
Three staffed NHS Near Me clinics have already been set up at Caithness General Hospital, Wick; the Lawson Memorial Hospital, Golspie, Sutherland; and Portree Hospital, on Skye.
Clare said: “As the NHS Near Me service is available as a web-based platform, it can be provided to patients in their own home anywhere in NHS Highland and we are currently carrying out a project on Skye to thoroughly test and refine this.”
All that the NHS Near Me service requires is a computer capable of running a Google Chrome browser, a webcam and a speaker. Alternatively, patients can access the service from a smartphone or tablet connected to the internet.
Since a pilot of the service at Caithness General Hospital last year, some 17 departments within NHS Highland currently offer appointments via NHS Near Me, with the Highland Haematology service proving to be the number one provider of consultations across Scotland.
Current services include: CAMHS; Cardiology; Colorectal; Dermatology; Diabetes; Dietetics; Gastroenterology; Haematology; Neurology; Paediatrics; Psychiatry; Renal; Respiratory; Rheumatology; Sleep service; Speech & Language therapy; and Stroke & Rehabilitation. Even more services are planned.