In fact, 61% would either prefer to keep seeing their doctor remotely, or would like to at least have the option of remote appointments as lockdown restrictions lift.
A nationwide survey of 1,049 people by Consumer Intelligence for health insurance provider Equipsme found that 37% would like the option of a remote consultation, depending on the condition whilst 24% would always prefer remote appointments due to convenience or a desire to continue to minimise journeys.
Younger people showed a higher preference for remote consultations, with only 35% saying they would still prefer to go to their GP surgery in person – rising to 45% of those aged 55 and older.
The research shows that lockdown led to a positive first experience of a remote consultation for many.
More than a quarter of people in the UK have now had a remote consultation as surgeries stopped face-to-face appointments to prevent the community spread of Covid-19. For 79% it was the first time they’d seen a doctor in this way, and 86% rated the experience as good or very good.
Managing Director at Equipsme, Matthew Reed, explains: “Digital healthcare, including phone and video consultations, has been growing steadily but slowly over the last 20 years. Under the circumstances of the last few months, it’s exploded. What we’ve seen is a revolution in how medical care is delivered, and it’s clearly been a revelation to large number of Brits.
“People have realised they can get practical help and advice for basic health conditions quickly and easily from the comfort of their own home - fitting it in around their working and family lives. While there will always be some people and some ailments that require face-to-face care, remote consultations have proven to be effective, efficient, and perhaps surprisingly popular.”
Equipsme specialises in healthcare plans for SMEs and the self-employed, and remote access to a GP 24/7 is one of the most popular benefits it offers. It’s also something more than three quarters of people in the survey said they’d be interested in. The service for Equipsme is delivered by HealthHero with a team of doctors of whom Dr Chris Morris is the Chief Medical Officer. He’s clear that it’s not just patients that can benefit from the rise of digital health, but doctors too - and the NHS as a whole.
He says: “The NHS has been forced to take the remote consultation plunge and, rather than grudgingly accepting this as a dire necessity, NHS GPs are overcoming their initial reluctance and starting to realise it presents a great opportunity to provide a more efficient service. Clinicians now understand that 70%-80% of their care can be delivered without seeing someone face-to-face - and that this is not only an acceptable way of consulting with people but offers many benefits.
“With the remote approach, more doctors can work from home and surgeries with lots of consulting rooms may no longer be needed. This means rather than spending money on infrastructure and facilities, budget can be freed up and spent on other essential areas.”
As the NHS continues to deal with Covid-19 and begins to try and restart the clinics and surgeries put on hold for the crisis, there’s an enormous backlog to catch up on - and an enormous amount of pressure on the service.
“Knowing that remote consultations not only work but are wanted by a significant proportion of the public means the NHS can more effectively triage and treat in the community where patients need and want an in person appointment,” says Matthew. “At the moment and for the foreseeable future, every little helps, and remote consultations will allow front line resources to be focussed. It’s a rare win/win/win situation, and I hope it opens the door for other digital health solutions to be developed and embraced by patients, doctors, and policy makers.”
Notes to Editors
Consumer Intelligence online survey conducted 19-22 June 2020 with 1,049 adults in the UK
Equipsme provides simple and practical health plans for businesses in partnership with a range of partners including; AXA Health Limited, HealthHero, Health Assured and Thriva. Equipsme was the first new health provider in over a decade when it launched in March 2018. It won “Best New Product - Innovation Award” at the Cover Excellence Awards in October 2019.