Open All Hours – Can Telemedicine Bring The Doctor’s House-Call Into The 21st Century

Two leading health watchdogs [Public Accounts Committee & NHS England] have this week (27 April 2017) been drawn into the debate about current pressure on GPs and warned of the ill-effects on the health of the nation (particularly “working patients”) who are struggling to access primary care appointments when they need it.

The PAC criticises family doctors for “erratic opening hours” whilst adding that there is “no credible plan” to stem a fall in number of GPs or to recruit more to meet demand. Its report also found that many surgeries were closed to patients at times during supposedly core hours of 8am to 6.30pm on weekdays.

Almost half (46%) of practices closed at some point during these core hours, including 18% that closed by 3pm on at least one afternoon a week. In some areas, 42% of practices closed by 3pm. This forced more patients to turn to A&E, the report said.

NHS England has now promised to clamp down on practices that close during core hours – as well as prioritising out-of-hours appointments to help people with jobs who are currently finding it hard to see a doctor.

Whilst nothing can replace a face-to-face, “hands-on” appointment with a GP or practice nurse we have to be realistic about the current demand on these already over-stretched services and start introducing new, smart solutions to ensure that patients are not penalised – or their health compromised – for requiring appointments outside of office hours.

Many of us are already using telemedicine without considering it as such, so it’s nothing to be scared of! If a patient calls their GP surgery and receives an instant “solution” either over the phone, email or, increasingly, via software such as Skype, then that’s telemedicine because essentially technology is being used to access personal, convenient medical advice!”

According to new research commissioned by VideoDoc, more than a quarter of people (27%) admitted that the most likely reason for having to take a day off work would be for a GP appointment – with one in 5 going on to say they had taken a full day of annual leave in order to see their GP

Telemedicine is offering huge advantages for people who work within conventional office hours. It’s a smart-solution means people will no longer have to take time off for GP appointments or waste hours on the end of ‘phone waiting for slots to become available.

We know that at least 70% of all health-related issues which a GP might treat during an in-surgery visit can be treated via telemedicine consultations. So why, when the NHS is already over-burdened and access to GPs and primary care services are at an all-time low, is there such an inflexible approach to how and where we “see” our doctors?

Millennials are the mobile, subscription and on-demand generation. They’re not used to waiting for services and not prepared to disrupt their working day for an appointment that could legitimately be accessed from their workstation. Telemedicine offers healthcare, anytime, anywhere.

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