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A recent survey from Visionable has shown that 73 per cent of people are happy with the idea of having video consultations with their GP.
Pandemic Strengthens View
The survey, which originally took into account the views of 1500 people back in February (i.e. before the UK lockdown), found that at that time, 69 per cent of people were in favour of video consultations with their GP. A further 1525 people were then surveyed in May, after the lockdown and the spread of the virus. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was found that there had been an increase to 73 per cent of the number of people who preferred the idea of a video consultation rather than a (potentially risky) visit to a GP’s surgery/medical centre.
Physical Visit Not Always Necessary
The survey showed that by May this year, nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed that it is not always necessary to physically see a doctor to receive appropriate care.
Most GPs Now Offer Video Consultations
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently claimed that 99 per cent of GP practices now offer video consultations. This is an 80 per cent rise since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitals also now offer video visits and virtual outpatient appointments.
Although COVID-19 and the need to stay apart to avoid infection has been the key driver for the big swing to video consultation availability, concerns still exist about the format itself and its limitations compared to a face-to-face visit. For example, the Visionable survey revealed that security is seen as a risk by more than half of patients, women are more concerned about showing body parts and some patients are concerned about making mistakes with technology.
Also, some professionals who were part of the survey expressed concerns that the lack of a “laying on of hands” for comfort or for investigation, made it more difficult to build engagement and trust with patients.
Favours The More Affluent
The Visionable survey also found that those on high or mid incomes are happier to have a video consultation. It may also be the case that these people are more used to using technology such as video conferencing platforms e.g. Zoom or Teams, as part of the work and increasingly so with the remote working necessitated by the lockdown.
Older patients may also be finding the current situation of GP Consultations a challenge. For example, back in July, Age Cymru in Wales expressed concern that older people, particularly those over 75, were finding the idea of video consultations difficult, and that this is the age group who often need healthcare the most.
Despite GPs widely offering video consultations as an option now, reports in the media that appropriate access to general practice is a widespread problem have led to complaints and staff members being verbally abused by the public.
Better Than No Consultation
Whatever the concerns about video consultations as opposed to face-to-face consultations, many commentators agree that a video consultation is better than no consultation at all. For example, there are widespread concerns that serious conditions like cancer are being missed as patients have simply avoided making any kind of appointment to address medical concerns due to fears of catching COVID-19, and that there is the lack of awareness of the availability of video consultations and a perception that medical professionals may be too busy at the current time to see patients normally.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
The 70 IT companies that replaced the old GPSoC framework are benefitting from the move by NHS digital to ensure that GP surgeries, medical/healthcare centres and hospitals all have the necessary solutions in place to conduct video consultations and perform other services and communications tasks digitally. Users of GP and NHS services now have another option for consultations that may ensure that they can get an appointment more quickly, albeit online, and that doctors can communicate with patients safely (for both) during the pandemic, and continue to operate that way going forward. Less affluent and older patients, however, may struggle to access video consultations and may, therefore, be more at risk in a number of ways. Doctors may also miss some aspects of face-to-face meetings with their patients and there is a possibility that other important health factors may be missed without a more holistic, face-to-face meeting. COVID-19 is, however, now firmly dictating how many medical services can be accessed and may indirectly be causing many patients with potentially serious conditions to avoid making appointments at this time. As shown by the survey, however, many people may be warming to and becoming used the idea of video appointments and online meetings for all kinds of things.