The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is gradually introducing services that allow patients to speak to a physician through their mobile devices via video call, phone call, or text. With the NHS under a lot of pressure to reduce waiting times, can teleconsultations be the answer?
Telemedicine is a growing sector in the UK, supported by Transparency Market Research predicting the industry to be worth £26 billion by 2020. You may have seen some private teleconsultation apps that allow you to speak with a physician quickly and easily over the majority of devices. However, as they are not associated with the NHS, they involve paying by the minute or by a subscription fee, on top of that you have to pay for prescriptions and sick notes. While this may suit a lot of people, many rely on the NHS for their free appointments, and in some cases, free prescriptions.
Over the past few weeks, hospitals have been under an enormous amount of pressure with the amount of people visiting A&E, mostly due to patients visiting with complications from the flu. In January, Nottingham’s QMC was put on ‘black alert’ after it had more than 600 patients arriving in A&E despite the department being designed to handle 350. Hospitals all over the Country had to cancel none urgent surgeries and reschedule them for a later date which, while not life threatening, has left people in very uncomfortable or painful circumstances.
Can telemedicine help the NHS thrive?
Video appointments with physicians is something we will see become increasingly popular over the next few years. You may already be able to book appointments online, as well as have an appointment with your doctor over the phone. While phone call consultations are useful, video has an array of additional benefits.
- Video allows a physician to actually see their patient, their patient’s symptoms, and provide a more thorough examination.
- Teleconsultations can help cut the costs incurred when patients don’t turn up to appointments. The Independent reported that missed appointments cost the NHS £1 billion in 2017 alone. With on demand teleconsultations, this would no longer be an issue. If a patient doesn’t turn up, the doctor simply moves onto the next patient in a virtual queue.
- As mentioned earlier, QMC had over 600 people visit their A&E. Many of these people had the flu and would have been waiting for hours, this could massively increase the spread of infections to other patients and staff. With video consultations available, people can speak to a doctor without having to leave their house, reducing the spread of illness
- Reduce waiting times. No longer will people have to wait days, or even weeks, for an appointment, they can book an appointment at the push of a button and speak to someone within hours.
- People might feel too ill to leave their house, be travelling, or struggling to make an appointment due the hours they work – this is no longer an issue with teleconsultations. They can speak to their doctor on all major devices (phone, laptop PC, tablet, Mac), wherever they are.
- Video doesn’t only help with appointments, but also with outpatient aftercare and physiotherapy. If people have a long term/lifetime illnesses/injury’s that require regular visits to doctors/hospitals they could be monitored via teleconsultations resulting in less frequent visits to doctors/hospitals. (read more about the benefits for outpatients here)
- Have a patient with an uncommon illness? Not only can video be used to communicate with patients, but for video calls with specialists all over the world.
- Video conferencing has the ability to share your screen, documents, and present to each other during a call, allowing you to share results, knowledge, discuss treatment plans etc. as easily as you could in person.
With Questmark you can also be confident your meetings are secure. We have various encryption methods and role based authentication to keep your meetings as secure as possible. And with our ISO 27001, ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and various other security measures you can give yourself the reassurance you need. (View our security policies and procedures here)
While telemedicine can’t fully replace visiting a GP in person, it can certainly help reduce pressure on the NHS. Not only with appointments and waiting times, but also with patient aftercare.
Our solutions help the NHS to transform the development and delivery of care to many vulnerable patients in their homes and in the community, as well as providing support for carers and allied health professionals.
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