The pandemic is fast-tracking many healthcare services towards a digital interface, says Simplyhealth’s head of clinical services Emma Elstead
How has the healthcare industry embraced digital technology over the past few years?
It has been an evolution really. If you take something like GP services, these were only ever conducted face-to-face or as a home visit. But as caseloads developed the industry moved to telephone consultations and e-consultations. More recently we are seeing patients appreciate the benefits of video consultations, which have been around for a while, and doctors with whom you can get an appointment pretty much straight away.
How has this technology been embraced by patients?
Slowly, but surely, people have started to realise the benefits of going online for medical diagnosis. For example, there is less waiting time for a telephone appointment - 92% of our appointments are delivered within three hours of requesting one; an online appointment on the phone or over video means you get to speak to your doctor for longer; you don't have to travel to the surgery and potentially get stuck in traffic. The providers have also realised a number of benefits too; it is quite simply more efficient, and patients are better at sticking to their dedicated appointments.
One of the biggest services Simplyhealth has developed which is quite unique in the market is providing patients with the opportunity to see the online GP they have seen before, which isn't really something that exists in physical GP surgery visits anymore.
Where do you see this technology moving in five years' time?
As we evolve, and with the help of wearable technology and your smartphone too, individuals will be able to detect their temperature and blood pressure at home themselves. But it is important we get this technology right, and are not simply rushing it through as a response to coronavirus.
At the moment it's very much a primary care thing but what coronavirus has done is pushed it into the secondary care field. It is going to make for much more efficient healthcare, and support the NHS hugely over the coming decade.
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