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The Role of Video Consultations in the NHS

Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses a new survey amongst GP practices in the UK which revealed some interesting figures concerning primary care consultation formats.

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Amidst the chaos and controversy surrounding last week’s much talked about NHS cyber attack, some other interesting news regarding consultation formats within the health service emerged, and perhaps went somewhat unnoticed by a lot of people in the industry.

A recent survey of GP surgeries in the United Kingdom has found that one in six practices carry out “email consultations” with their patients, while a huge 96% of them offer telephone consultations.

These sort of processes are part of NHS England’s “10 high impact actions”, a set of proposals with the ambition of releasing time within general practice and primary care and reducing strain on NHS services. The actions include a call for practices to “introduce new communication methods for some consultations, such as phone and email, improving continuity and convenience for the patient, and reducing clinical contact time.”

While it’s encouraging to see that significant numbers of practices are offering consultation options beyond face-to-face visits, I have to admit that I was somewhat alarmed to read that fewer than 2% of GP partners responding to the poll said that their practice offered the option of a video consultation.

For me, the benefits that video services (such as our Dr Now / Now GP platform) have over the more primitive options of email and telephone consultations are very obvious indeed. While NHS England’s 10 high impact actions are undoubtedly needed, it’s of paramount importance that the quality of care that patients are receiving does not fall for the sake of saving time. By giving our GPs the opportunity to see and hear their patients remotely, we’ve built a platform that is neither deaf nor blind, allowing face-to-face remote appointments for more accurate and thorough diagnoses – whilst still saving valuable time and resources in the primary care setting.

We’ve already been working with the NHS for almost two years now, issuing and dispatching NHS repeat prescriptions. Our technology is highly scalable and we have the ability to provide reliable, face-to-face video consultations – by integrating further with the NHS we would be able to “close the loop” for patients by offering both consultations and the provision of medicines. This not only reduces strain on practices and surgeries but also offers a convenient primary care alternative for today’s on-the-go society.

I fully expect us to see a significant increase in the number of practices offering video consultations to their patients in the very near future, and we’re delighted to be in a position where we can look to integrate our own services, helping the NHS reach its targets whilst maintaining a high standard of healthcare.

For more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter @LeeDentithDrNow.