Health Care Trends With a Social Media Twist
Earlier this week, Health Minister Simon Burns urged GPs and hospitals to make greater use of online tools such as Skype in a bid to cut the 5.5million outpatient appointments missed last year – accounting for a total of one in 10 NHS appointments.
The use of social media and the Internet in primary and secondary care is nothing new, but is only now starting to gain traction. Some parts of the NHS have already adopted such practices. For example, Newham University Hospital NHS Trust has started a pilot, for diabetes patients who do not need physician examinations to be seen via Skype. The scheme has seen missed appointments fall by 11 percent and importantly, the quality of care has remained the same as face to face appointments.
While you’ll never be able to completely eliminate personal contact with your physician (you’ll be foolish to think you can), widespread rollout of such schemes would be a godsend! Take my experience of GP practices for instance. You book an appointment weeks in advance, to only find your personal circumstances might have changed by the time this comes round. Or if you are able to attend a scheduled appointment you end up having to wait an extra half hour to be seen, not taking into account the travel time to and from the practice.
This seems all too archaic in a world of smartphones, health apps and telemedicine. Don’t get me wrong – I am aware that the average age of an outpatient is over 70, most of whom have never heard of Skype, let alone know how to use it. Adopting technology of any kind needs careful consideration, but if the NHS wants to improve productivity (with a limited budget) then as technology improves, medical provision will need to embrace the use of social media more openly than it previously has.