Online GPs could save UK businesses £1.5bn

AXA PPP healthcare report shows

Adam Saville
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Online GPs could save UK businesses £1.5bn

Employee travel to GP appointments cost UK businesses an estimated £1.5 billion in lost working time last year

A new report titled ‘Digital health: the changing landscape of how we access GP services' from AXA PPP healthcare has highlighted the role that online GPs could play in improving efficiencies across business and healthcare.

The findings, produced by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), revealed that UK businesses could have saved £1.5bn in lost working time in 2019 through the use of remote (online or telephone) GP services.

The report also showed that - as you'd expect - there was a significant spike in remote consultations as result of Covid-19. In the four weeks leading up to 12 April 2020, 71% of routine consultations in general practice were delivered remotely. The compares to 13% of telephone NHS GP appointments and 1% via video/online during 2019, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners.

AXA PPP also noted that, while a face-to-face consultation is necessary in some cases, many patients could receive appropriate care via an online consultation, especially as a first point of call. According to the CEBR, had ‘virtual' GP appointments been offered as a first point of call across all public GP practices in 2019, face-to-face consultations could have been reduced by 50 million.

Missed appointments

The report also explores how the flexibility of online GPs could help reduce the number of cancelled appointments and ‘no shows'.

According to NHS Digital, one in 20 (5%) GP appointments were recorded as ‘did not attend' in 2019 and CEBP estimated that a 20% reduction in this figure could free the equivalent of 60 years of GP consulting time every year.

A poll of UK working adults by AXA PPP healthcare revealed that the most common reasons for missed appointments were work commitments (28%), family commitments (26%) and symptoms easing (26%).

The research also showed that over half (54%) of the adults polled agreed that, in the future, speaking to a GP online will become as normal as banking online. 

Win-win

Dr Arup Paul, deputy chief medical officer at AXA PPP healthcare, commented: "While the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the commitment and dedication of those working in healthcare, it also brings into focus the challenges of meeting patients' needs. As a result we've a unique opportunity to look at how innovation in the healthcare sector can help to meet these needs, both now and in the future. The report illustrates that the adoption of such services not only benefits patients and the healthcare sector, but businesses too, with gains for both in terms of efficiencies and productivity.

"Our findings show that not only can high quality online GP services help to increase GP practice effectiveness, but they could also help reduce ‘no-show' appointments which depletes valuable resource.

"Furthermore, by reducing the number of face-to-face appointments, UK businesses could potentially save up to £1.5bn in lost working time. Patients stand to gain too - from reduced travel costs and, for those who are self-employed, even a reduced loss of earnings."

The AXA PPP healthcare report, which also explores practical examples of how online services are supporting businesses, is available here.

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