Doctors to see patients by video link

Doctors to see patients by video link

The Medical Director of the NHS has said that new broadband technology could allow patients to see doctors remotely as a matter of routine, and that the NHS could even use foreign experts


New technology could allow patients and doctors to routinely interact remotely

By Matt Warman, Consumer Technology Editor

4:23PM BST 07 Jul 2011

Doctors will routinely use new broadband video technology to consult patients in their homes within “a year rather than a decade”, the NHS’s medical director has said.

Sir Bruce Keogh said that using high-speed broadband connections, the NHS of the future could explore conducting “virtual ward rounds” or even break the “geographical connection” between GPs and their patients. That might allow people to consult international experts or to take advantage of out of hours care provided by overseas doctors in another time zone.

Sir Bruce, who as a cardiac surgeon persuaded his colleagues to make their success rates public, was speaking at the Government’s launch of its plans to make all state data available online. He said the NHS had to adapt because “young people won’t put up with having to travel to a doctor and wait 20 minutes when they can just use the web to talk directly to a doctor”.

He cited examples of patients who needed to show doctors their skin conditions or consult a specialist about a chronic condition such as diabetes as people who might be able, using the superfast broadband connections, to use services from their own homes. It would be cheaper and more efficient to the NHS as well, he said.

Some doctors are already trialling services online, but in rural areas where the differences would be most apparent, poor broadband infrastructure is holding back progress. Sir Bruce acknowledged that the NHS has yet to lay out a “national vision” for digital access, but he said that it would happen in the future.

Frances Maude, Cabinet Office Minister, said that plans to release data about all NHS performance, including GPs as well as surgery, would allow patients to be more selective about their treatment.

Coupled with better broadband, it could pave the way for top specialists to see patients hundreds of miles from their homes. The British Medical Association is leading a project to present data on GP performance.

Sir Bruce suggested people could “imagine an NHS that uses new technology so that it’s available 24/7, seven days a week”. Although he acknowledged that his plans would “open up a whole heap of financial issues”, Sir Bruce claimed “the younger generation just don’t accept the offer as it is now”. In Northern Ireland, he said, a group of neurologists had found using new technology was “cheaper and the patients like it more”.

The Government is set to announce how superfast broadband networks, essential for high-quality video consultations, will be funded next week. Each county is set to be allocated an amount of money based on the geographical challenges it faces.

5 Responses to Doctors to see patients by video link

  1. Maureen says:

    Will the Government ensure that unpaid carers have computers and access to the internet to use this service seeing as they are putting up £530 million to improve broadband in the UK.

  2. admin says:

    Brilliant point Maureen.
    This was bound to happen, meetings will all be done from home soon.
    Carers need the internet.
    keep shouting so as they eventually hear.

  3. annie says:

    Good point Mo, it will be brilliant for those who have difficulty in getting to the surgery, but for myself I would prefer a face to face visit

  4. Lynn Hudson says:

    I was just about to ask “Where are the computers coming from also the teachers for people who cannot as yet use one” but someone has beaten me to it.

  5. kenm says:

    To me this looks like another idea to keep patients away from doctors. NHS direct is similar and has proved a failure-it is only there to divert patients away from doctors.

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