“Patients should email GP rather than visit them”

Patients should email GP rather than visit them

This Telegraph article neatly sums up the challenges facing the NHS as it looks to make access to health advice available via the internet.

Here are some of my thoughts on the article:

Mike Farrar, the head of the NHS Confederation, said that contacting doctors online instead of in person would allow GPs to assess health complaints quickly and refer them onwards only if necessary… …Previously Prof Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS, had encouraged surgeries to use new technology such as Skype to communicate with patients. But pilots in 2011 proved unsuccessful… …Labour’s Valerie Vaz said: “The average patient wouldn’t know what to say or what to ask. This idea that you just ring up a doctor and tell them about your symptoms – I thought medicine was based on observation

I’m surprised it isn’t obvious to everyone that these pilots have proven unsuccessful because they have just been simply trying to use Skype as a direct substitute for conventional in-person consultations. I’m surprised more people aren’t figuring out that this is about as ridiculous as an airline like Ryanair trying to work with an online strategy centred around providing Skype Video calls to sales agents rather than the interactive websites that 99% of customers use to book their flights.

Valerie Vaz obviously has a very good understanding of the challenges that Patients would encounter if NHS GP’s opened their doors to email communications and it surprises me that more people aren’t aware of the challenges that this new process would present eg. very few Patients know how to give a medical history, it’s not clear to Patients what details are/aren’t important, Doctors aren’t trained to provide care via email, etc.

Fortunately there is a clinically validated Patient History Taking Questionnaire technology (the interactive questionnaire tech we use as part of the documented consultations we offer here at 3G Doctor) that can enable this – something that is elegantly explained by Dr John Bachman MD, the Mayo Clinic’s Professor of Primary Care, in this video introducing his Mayo Clinic Proceedings published paper:

“One million more people visit A & E every year, compared to just three years ago,” Mr Hunt told MPs. “The simple fact is, if growth continues at this rate, it will be unsustainable.
“It means that where there are short-term pressures on the system, such as a very cold winter, teething problems with NHS 111, or bank holidays, the system cannot cope as well as it needs to, and the quality of care is affected.” The Health Secretary said that if the services were to be rescued, long-term reforms were needed to address the “underlying causes” of the pressures. Tomorrow he will make a speech setting out changes to ensure family doctors take back responsibility for care when surgeries are closed

It amazes me that so few politicians appreciate that it’s only through reducing the diverse range of possible touch points (eg. NHS Direct advice line, NHS Choices Website, GP Website, walk in clinics, A&E, etc) and properly provisioning their family Doctors to manage this growing demand for convenient access to medical care.

When you realise that GP’s already provide more than 1.5 million consultations per day it should be obvious that clinically validated online tools would make it possible for them to manage 80% of consultations without the need for in-office consultations and be accessible online 24×7 for less than the amount that’s wasted on the current crop of NHS telephone advice lines where triage isn’t efficiently documented and is led by the least experienced.

About David Doherty

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