Seventy-two percent of all patient care requests were initiated online in 2021. Meanwhile, online consultations have increased by 100%.
Digital-first is becoming the norm. The result?
A strong case could be made that patients have more flexibility and control over their care than ever before. But there’s more to this to explore. What are the use cases of online GP appointments? Of digital health tools?
Dr David Griffiths, GP and Chief Medical Officer at Teladoc Health helps us to answer these questions in the Q&A interview below:
GPs have carried out telephone consultations for a long time, so that helps. Patients are used to speaking over the phone. Video consultations can potentially augment phone appointments as you also have some visual cues.
Overall, it can be a lot more convenient. There’s no travel for the patient, no wasting time going to and from a clinic, and it’s a safer experience as they don’t have to sit in a waiting room full of ill people!
It’s also more efficient for the GP, who can potentially work from home, reducing their travel time. Sometimes, a telephone call can provide more focused communication. Also, it’s generally more acceptable to take notes while consulting online.
Not to forget, it can be a relief for patients to have the option of speaking with a GP while they’re away with their family, working, or out of town for some reason.
For those who value speed and convenience, it’s great. In my experience, patients now are very open to requesting and receiving healthcare advice online and asynchronously. It will be interesting how the younger generations’ behaviour changes as they get older. Even now, I do have older patients who like to use email or SMS but it’s less universal.
In my NHS role, some patients still prefer to see me in person; it has almost become part of their routine. I’m very fond of some of my long-term patients, and the feeling might even be mutual!
No, I wouldn’t say so. If anything, the risk is lower than with paper records. All healthcare providers have to comply with GDPR guidance. This regulates how long patient data is stored and aims to minimise the number of people that have access to it.
Across all healthcare, including the NHS, data needs to be secure and unhackable as far as possible. We take enormous care of our data security at Teladoc Health and take advice from our Data Protection Officer whenever we need it.
The trend is toward patient-centred care. Patients will have greater access to their healthcare records and greater input into decision making.
In the Teladoc UK world, which is 100% virtual, it’s currently about episodic care most of the time rather than long-term management, but both are possible. Digital tools such as smartwatches are becoming more popular for gathering health data, such as a patient’s pulse rate. Many more patients have blood pressure and oxygen monitors, particularly since the pandemic. There will always be a case for the human element too. for face-to-face care. But technology is here to stay. Having more information about patients means the GPs can make better decisions.
GPs have to filter out a lot of extraneous information during appointments. They must clarify the main problem and ensure the patient receives the correct treatment or advice.
Moving forward, tracking outcomes will be especially useful when patients repeatedly present with unusual or unexplained symptoms. I’m sure that AI will be able to perceive patterns in the data that we’re currently missing: what is the probability of this patient deteriorating in the next 24 hours? What should they watch out for?.
Technology can help us, and there’s no doubt about that. So, the healthcare sector needs to remain open-minded. It’s all about integration rather than the replacement of traditional care.