“End of the doctors surgery? GP visits to be replaced by Skype consultations in bid to save NHS £3BN”

This Daily Mail article by Adam Shergold with 379 comments (and counting) HatTip: TelecareAware highlights some of the challenges that big brands and politicians need to be wary of as they try to introduce mHealth services.

My thoughts:

I think there really is an argument for the government walking the walk BEFORE it expects vulnerable members of the public to test out this digital paperless future. I’m certain that confidence in all of these optimistic online health initiatives would be much higher if they were coming from a government that had already adopted them itself.

The reality is that if you watched Parliament proceedings in black and white you’d struggle to see anything different from 50 years ago, online voting is still not possible (in sharp contrast to Estonia where this has not only been possible since 2007 but it’s now possible to vote via SMS), etc.

Many face-to-face appointments would be replaced by phone or weblink treatment

It’s funny how reaction to this takes on 2 completely different interpretations depending on who is saying it eg. everyone wants to hear their GP tell them they can call them and/or communicate with them online but when it’s a politician talking about this opportunity most patients are thinking about outsourced services, interactions with a frustrating call tree, talking to unqualified call handlers who are reading scripts, etc.

Doctors would use a mobile app to access patient records

I imagine “could also” would work a lot better in this phrase. Many Doctors work best at a desk and we shouldn’t be trying to force fit the future where it’s not wanted/required.

Ministers say the plans will save the NHS £3bn ‘immediately’

After the disaster of the NHS $20B National Program for IT and HealthSpace how on earth did a government minister let themselves get quoted like this?

The new system of ‘virtual clinics’ favoured by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt could spell the end of traditional doctor’s surgeries with appointments conducted on iPads and Skype, and test results delivered by text message

This is just fanciful optimism from someone who is wildly out of touch with the reality of remote consulting. We should never talk about a Doctor consulting with a patient as a Virtual experience. There is nothing “virtual” about remotely consulting with a registered Doctor.

The Sunday Express reported that NHS bosses are importing the idea from India and believe the changes would cut £2.9bn almost immediately, a good chunk of the £20bn the NHS must save to fill its funding gap

I wonder why they don’t look closer to home for new ideas especially when there are clinicians who have trained and worked in the UK Healthcare System who have experience providing remote video consultations to patients within the UK healthcare system (eg. private service providers like us here at 3G Doctor or NHS providers of Skype GP Consultations like those offered by the Hurley Group).

However, critics say the plans would create a two-tier health service, where those who are less technologically able – particularly the elderly – would be left behind, and the trust between doctor and patient eroded

I’ve been talking about the importance of this for years and this criticism does a great job of highlighting one of the key reasons why public healthcare initiatives should take a mobile first approach like the one that’s proving to be so successful at Kaiser Permanente in the USA.

Health assessments would be completed online and ‘augmented’ with video calls

I think this would be great but it’s a surprise that there are so few details on the all important how this will be implemented eg. I wonder if patients will be given full access to their records/notes (remember how the NHS previously said even this was far too difficult?).

Mobile phone ‘apps’ would be used by doctors to access lab reports and health records

Obviously Apple’s Reality Distortion Field is working but I wonder what these politicians think is so wrong about secure web applications that can run on any secured device with a browser?

while negative test results would be sent to patients by text message rather than delivered in person

Surprised to read this being suggested as something new as it’s actually already been happening in the NHS for years (eg. at the Chelsea and Westminister Hospital’s GUM Clinic) and just suffers from a lack of support/adoption rather than a need for yet more invention.

Health chiefs believe the new system would reduce ‘needless’ appointments that take up too much staff time

The problem with this is that what constitutes a ‘needless appointments’ will remain very uncertain until such times as consultations are fully documented.

The report says that every one per cent reduction in face-to-face appointments will save the health service £200m

Sadly government form on this isn’t too healthy eg. premium rate calls to nurses via the NHS Direct service ended up costing as much to the NHS as providing an in-office GP consultation.

The Labour shadow minister said: ‘Older people who don’t have access to the internet will lose out.’

Worth remembering: With most senior citizens in the UK now having mobile we’re heading the way of Japan (a country in which most senior citizens use mobile data services) where the mobile divide will increasingly shrink in size (mobile penetration already compares much more favourably to that of broadband subscription + PC).

Speaking in a Westminster debate last week, Dr Poulter argued that treating patients with modern technology in their own homes would help to free up in-patient beds and reduce waiting times

I personally think he’d have faired much better if he’d stressed the opportunity to remove waste from the system and focused on preventative opportunities that exist to prevent admissions in the first place.

Dr Poulter told the Mail Online: ‘We want to make life easier for patients. By allowing people to access the NHS online, we will help put an end to things like the 8am rush to phone your GP to try and book a medical appointment

Okay this is no where near as bad as confusing Apps and Maps but it amazes me that if this is the objective why confuse people with talk about high tech (eg. Skype Video Calls and Mobile Apps) when you could just mandate every NHS GP to provide a secure .nhs website that provides patients with the ability to book an appointment?

Was this just another Health Secretary shooting their own foot or is there something fundamental about NHS TeleHealth services that makes them hard to communicate with readers of the Daily Mail? What do you think?

About David Doherty

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6 Responses to “End of the doctors surgery? GP visits to be replaced by Skype consultations in bid to save NHS £3BN”

  1. Pingback: “End of the doctors surgery? GP visits to be replaced by Skype consultations in bid to save NHS £3BN” | The New Patient-Doctor e-Relationship | Scoop.it

  2. Pingback: “End of the doctors surgery? GP visits to be replaced by Skype consultations in bid to save NHS £3BN” | Australian e-health | Scoop.it

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  5. Pingback: Isn’t it obvious that mHealth is the only way we can change the “Pandora’s Box” perception of patient accessible online medical records? « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

  6. Pingback: If we used the tools of our time would returning out-of-hours responsibility to GPs still be ridiculous? | mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

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