Comment

18.03.16

GP consultations via video conferencing is the smart choice

Source: NHE Mar.Apr 16

Barry Cooper, chief operating officer at Vocare Group, which provides urgent healthcare services to 10 million patients countrywide, through urgent care centres, GP out-of-hours services, integrated urgent care centres and the NHS 111 service, explains the benefits of GP video consultations.

The world’s oldest public healthcare system is facing one of the most challenging periods in its history. Funding cuts, an ageing population and the increasing impact of lifestyle factors like obesity and high alcohol use have put the NHS under more strain than ever before. Continuous innovation is needed to ease the strain, while ensuring patients receive the correct level of care. 

One way to ease the burden is through video consultations, giving patients greater flexibility and alleviating the need for them to leave their homes. For many patients. travelling to an appointment can prove to be harmful and counterproductive, especially for those with long-term conditions. 

Time and cost savings 

Video consultations allow them to remain in the comfort of their own home and still receive the care that they require. Negating the need for face-to-face appointments saves on both costs and GP time, which is extremely important at a time when GP resource is scarce and patient demand is ever increasing. 

The idea of video or Skype consultations is certainly not a new one but in the past has been met with scepticism from GPs, largely because they are not sure what it entails and are worried about the amount of time it might take up. Proper implementation can alleviate these concerns and reassure GPs of the benefits of video consultations. 

With the majority of a doctor’s consultation centred on a patient’s history, for many conditions a video examination is more than enough. 

Video consultations can also overcome a lot of the issues that doctors have faced when using telephone consultations, as they will be able to identify non-verbal communication clues, examine patients visually for important signs and  recognise particularly ill-looking patients. 

We believe the process will be particularly effective when there is a trained healthcare assistant helping at the other end, as they will be able to relay the patient’s vital signs to the doctor. This could prove to be extremely helpful in treating patients at nursing homes, for whom getting to an appointment can prove to be inconvenient and difficult without the proper support. 

We also believe that it is possible for paramedics to receive advice from doctors using video consultations to assess whether admission to hospital is the most appropriate outcome. We currently run a similar service in the north east which gives paramedics the option to call a doctor for advice if appropriate. 

National benefits 

In the UK, where 80% of the population have access to the internet and over 60% own a smartphone, most patients should be able to benefit from video consultations. To opt into the service, all a patient needs to do is download an app on their computer, tablet or smartphone and register for the service. Of course those who don’t have access to the internet or do not wish to use it would be dealt with in the normal way over the telephone.  

In future, we expect video consultations to form a vital part of how healthcare is delivered in the UK. Telephone consultations may in a large part become redundant as a result, but there will always be some patients who require the presence of a GP to examine them face-to-face. Video consultations have the potential to save the NHS a lot of time and money, while providing high-quality care as part of a sophisticated and integrated range of options.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

Retired GP   12/04/2016 at 07:27

We offered video consultations for 2 years with very low take up. During the same period, telephone consultations actually increased the workload. Ad Hoc consultations through email,FB, messenger etc., do have a fairly constant, low rate that continues. IMO technology is not a solution to underinvestment.

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