Embracing digital health technology could significantly ease NHS strain
Patients in the United Kingdom should be able to choose to see a doctor via digital health platforms as part of NHS Choices, a new survey has found.
The study, conducted by Now Healthcare Group, questioned 100 members of the public and found that 97% agreed that digital health technology – such as mobile app video appointments – should be made available through NHS Choices to make primary healthcare more accessible to patients. Such a move could significantly reduce the unnecessary costs and pressures on an increasingly overstretched NHS.
Currently, the NHS Choices system enables patients to choose how they receive their secondary care when they are referred to hospitals or specialists. However, there is less flexibility when it comes to primary care, with patients required to be registered with a GP surgery should they wish to make an appointment.
With the average waiting time for a GP appointment now up to two weeks, this can often be a major inconvenience for many people who as a result, may choose to go directly to A&E – at the staggering cost of £124 per visit to the NHS.
An incredible 40% of A&E visits are deemed “unnecessary”, with these patients discharged without needing any treatment. Given that there are approximately 23 million A&E visits annually, that’s 9.1 million avoidable A&E visits that are costing the NHS over £1 billion each year.
Now Healthcare Group, the company behind the innovative Now GP / Dr Now smartphone app, believes that this figure could be reduced dramatically by further integrating their services into NHS Choices. With Jeremy Hunt’s 2020 digital vision in mind, the company believes that providing more convenient access to healthcare will significantly reduce this expense and improve the standard of primary healthcare in the UK.
Over the past 18 months, Now Healthcare Group’s integrated pharmacy solution, Now Pharmacy, has been working directly with the NHS to offer free delivery of NHS repeat prescription medication directly a patient’s door. This is already helping to reduce the number of A&E visits from patients requiring urgent repeat prescriptions, with tens of thousands of deliveries handled by Now Pharmacy since August 2015.
As the first digital health provider to be found to be meeting all regulations by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the company’s mobile app services are staffed by fully qualified UK-based doctors and medical professionals. The technology, which connects patients to doctors via app-based video call, could be white-labelled by the NHS to act as a convenient first point of call for patients, reducing the need for them to go to A&E when they can’t see their local GP.
Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, outlined his ambitions to continue working closely with the NHS to help achieve a solution to this problem and relieve strain on our A&E departments.
Lee said: “With avoidable A&E visits costing the NHS over £1 billion each year, it’s imperative for the future of primary care in this country that new methods are introduced and new technologies are thoroughly embraced. These latest survey figures speak for themselves, and with 97% of patients actively asking for the opportunity to see a doctor via an app, I remain confident that services such as ours are undeniably the future of the UK’s healthcare system. As the only telehealth provider currently authorised to provide NHS repeat prescriptions, we have ambitions to work even more closely with the NHS to solve A&E’s billion pound problem by transforming the way that people in the UK access primary care.”