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Why virtual consultations are the next big development in the delivery of patient care

Andrew Ostler, head of business unit - OmniJoin, Brother UK, discusses the future of healthcare.

It’s no secret that our health service is under increasing pressure. Demand is on the rise, working hours are being challenged and balancing the books is a constant battle. Added to this, patient expectations are higher than ever.

All of this is driving rapid change in the way technology is being used to increase efficiency.

We’ve seen the drive to be a paperless NHS, with online appointment bookings and the digitisation of patient records. Yet there’s so much more to come, and virtual consultations are a great example of an emerging patient service that can help to ease the pressure of increasing demands on GPs. In the US, it’s been reported that the number of virtual video consultations will double in five years to 5.4 million video consultations between primary care providers and their patients by 2020. The US is a different ball game, but it indicates the growth opportunity for this service in the UK.

Essentially, virtual consultations enable GPs to consult with patients over a secure online video call, making health advice and support more accessible than ever. Patients can literally access a consultation anywhere, any time - whether it’s using a smartphone on their lunch hour, or tablet from the comfort of their own home.

Of course, it can’t ever fully replace face-to-face appointments. They’re important and necessary. But when delivered to the right patient at the right time, virtual consultations should help to save time for everyone involved.

It’s an exciting time to be working in this field, as we’ve hit a point where we have the technology in place to meet the demands of both patients and health providers.

Here’s how:

  1. Military-grade security means that video consultations are now safer than online banking. Patients can be 100% confident that their data is secure and private. For example, with OmniJoin™, data is encrypted to a market leading level of 256Bit AES Encryption and set to be certified to ISO 27001 later this year.
  2. The service can be delivered through cloud-based technologies, meaning that it’s more convenient for healthcare providers to manage the service. The popularity of cloud-based services  has increased dramatically over recent years, with 88 percent of buyers preferring on premise solutions in 2008, compared to 87 percent preferring cloud solutions in 2014 – a result of more IT leaders being comfortable with not storing their data locally.
  3. The ‘millennial’ generation simply expect this kind of service – and they’ll demand the technology is modern and user-friendly. They’ll want tech that automatically adjusts to the bandwidth available, or even switches to audio only if necessary – and all of this is possible.
  4. Many CCGs and trusts are already embracing this kind of technology, using it to make meetings and the sharing of knowledge much more efficient and effective. So the next natural step is to roll this out to patients, too.

In my mind, having this service as standard is just around the corner. Why? Because it’s more convenient and efficient for both GPs and patients, and it mirrors the way we act as consumers – accessing services at the touch of a button or swipe of a screen.

We don’t know what challenges are around the corner for our health service, but surely if efficiency and accessibility continue to be high on the agenda, we can’t be far off seeing this in action in our local surgeries.

What do you think? Tweet us @Brother_UK

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