The number of people choosing to treat their health concerns through online research is on the rise. Even doctors are jumping on board, so does this signal a new age of digitalized GP appointments?
In the 21st century, there is one medical know-it-all who has seen more patients than any other. In fact, it is more than likely that you’ve checked your symptoms with him/her yourself. We are talking, of course, about Dr Google. A quick bit of research online and most of us interpret our maladies with help from one of the world’s largest search engines and choose to self-diagnose ourselves after a quick education session online.
A phenomenon of the 21st century, this kind of medical intervention is on the rise – and depending on who you speak to, it can be both a blessing and a curse that so much information is at our fingertips. But the healthcare system itself is also changing – taking on some of the best aspects of the digital age. Take Express Pharmacy as an example: we now offer prescription medications direct to your door in a safe, swift and discreet fashion.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s now on offer to patients.
How getting a diagnosis has changed
When you think about a consultation with a GP, the traditional image conjured up is of a hot and busy waiting room, a doctor’s office, stethoscopes and dreaded waiting times. There’s a reason for this. On average, over 90% of GP appointments involve a patient, a General Practitioner and a family member, but it seems these figures are changing, according to new reports.
In-person appointments are taking on a digital edge, with GPs nowadays referring to tech tablets to retrieve information and instantly contacting specialists in other areas of healthcare related to patient concerns.
GPs are also being given access to a hub of patient data prior to appointments in order to have the relevant information about the individual on hand. This data can include anything from blood pressure, glucose levels and diet to level of activeness and social engagement. This allows GP appointments to be a true exchange of information, with professionals being able to make informed decisions on treatment which reflects the patient overall, rather than the information they’ve shared during a ten-minute consultation.
In America, there are already FDA-approved smartphone apps being used by GPs to help increase the accuracy of physical patient examinations. It seems appointments are slowly but surely being revolutionised by technology.
But the revolution doesn’t stop at physical appointments. It seems more and more of us are opting for online solutions to our health-related problems, engaging in virtual consultations, using online resources and ordering relevant medication through online sources.
Virtual doctor consultations give the opportunity for a 24/7 appointments service. Like the takeover of online shopping, it could soon be the case that online GP appointments are a common and convenient alternative to making the trip to the doctor’s office.
Of course, in some cases a physical examination is necessary for a condition to be accurately diagnosed, and there are concerns that a rise in online diagnoses could lead to a less personalised healthcare system. In order to understand the rise of virtual GP appointments fully, we need to ask ourselves in what way it could be beneficial to healthcare overall.
So how could digitized appointments be a good thing?
On average, a twenty minute or less GP appointment takes more than two and a half weeks to schedule in, and 35% of patients are left waiting for more than fifteen minutes after their designated appointment time. Virtual appointments could help free up a General Practitioner’s busy schedule, as more than a fifth of appointments are for conditions which are easily self-treated.
The option for patients to input their data for GPs to see gives them more accurate diagnoses and more control over the treatment they receive. By having their illness diagnosed online, a patient can then choose which medication route they want to go down whilst still receiving professional information and advice.
Ultimately, an online diagnosis could be a much easier option for patients. It instantly cuts out both travelling and waiting times and allows patients to treat conditions discreetly. This is particularly important for male patients, as men are twice as likely as women to put off seeing a GP until their symptoms become more severe.
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