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Many patients support idea of GP video consultations

Experts say tech offers huge potential to improve NHS

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Almost two-thirds (63%) of patients say they would be happy to have a video consultation with their GP for a minor ailment, according to a survey released today.

More than half (55%) would also be happy to have such a consultation for advice on an ongoing problem or condition, and 43% would do so for immediate or emergency medical advice, showed the poll.

The survey of 2,083 adults was carried by the Health Foundation as part of a new briefing paper- What will new technology mean for the NHS and its patients? - produced for the BBC as part of its week of programming for the NHS’s 70th birthday.

The paper, produced by the Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and The King’s Fund, reviewed four technological trends affecting healthcare.

It looks at the uptake and potential of these trends in technology:

  • genomics and precision medicine
  • remote care such as video appointments with a GP
  • technology supported self-management such as apps and wearables
  • data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
The authors said that technological advances such as genomics and video consultations offered real opportunities to improve healthcare, but there were significant barriers standing in their way.

Some of these advances were beginning to take off in the NHS, such as video consultations with a GP, “virtual clinics” to connect family doctors to specialist advice, and using data from apps and wearables to provide rich information to healthcare professionals.

However, some of the advances with the biggest potential, like the use of AI to interpret scan results or the use of precision medicine, were a long way off being mainstream in the NHS, they warned.

The survey carried out for the briefing paper also found the support for video consultations with GPs was broadly the same across age groups.

More than half (57%) of survey respondents said they would be willing to share data with the NHS via a lifestyle app or fitness tracker.

There was a low level of understanding about the use of health data, shown by the fact that 17% of people had heard of, but knew nothing about how the NHS uses their health data, and 24% knew nothing about how commercial organisations, such as drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers, used it.

Barriers to technological advances achieving their full potential in the NHS included:
  • the upfront cost, for example for innovations like precision medicine
  • they may require health professionals to work in new ways or new roles
  • patient attitudes towards new innovations.
Nuffield Trust senior policy analyst and briefing author Sophie Castle-Clarke said: “If the technological trends we have examined continue to progress, they have the potential to completely transform health care.

“Patients could see improved access to specialist advice, a better synergy between the information they collect daily about their own health and that held by the NHS, and, eventually, personalised treatments based on their own characteristics.

“What’s more, our polling suggests that there is perhaps more willingness than we realised amongst the public of all age groups to embrace video consultations and health apps.

“But technology is rarely the saviour of health services in the way that politicians hope – at least in the short-term. It takes time to implement, often requires large changes in the way healthcare professionals work, and choosing where to invest poses real dilemmas for a cash strapped NHS.”

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