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Digital diagnosis – The Future of Telemedicine

Posted by Mark Heraghty on 16th August 2011

Filed under Healthcare Services

Speaking to a doctor via a webcam might sound like something out of The Jetsons, but it could be a reality sooner than you think. Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS, has called for doctors to offer remote consultations to patients via video link within the next year. But is this a service people want from their family doctor?

In order to find out more, YouGov polled over 2,000 people and found that almost 29 per cent in the UK would like to see GPs start offering remote consultations via video link in the next decade. Less than a third may not sound like much, but if you take into account how many millions of appointments NHS doctors conduct each year, there is clearly a huge demand from patients for ‘virtual’ consultations. Experts have also suggested that telemedicine could generate savings of £1bn a year for the NHS and a massive reduction in the number of hospital admissions.

It’s a big challenge. In order to support a ’24-7’ NHS, the right infrastructure must be put in place. This of course costs money and like most organisations, the NHS doesn’t have bottomless pockets. It must therefore find creative ways of delivering innovative new services. This is something we have already seen the NHS make a start on, there are many organisations across the country that are already working together and investing in resources that will serve multiple regions rather than just one.

The Lancashire NHS Foundation Trust, for example, have found this approach to be particularly successful. Last year saw eight healthcare trusts team up to launch a collaborative procurement partnership and invest in a new high-speed network. This enabled health and social care workers across the region to collaborate more effectively and work more easily whilst on-the-go.

But this is merely the beginning, imagine what it’d be like if healthcare organisations worked together on a national level. That’s the aim of Public Services Network (PSN). A pioneering initiative, set to revolutionise how organisations in the public sector utilities technology solutions to reduce costs, improve services and facilitate a new era of healthcare.

Tell us what you think - would you like to have access to your GP via a remote link? Do you think virtual appointments could eventually prove to be more popular than traditional face to face ones? Or are you an NHS worker that’s already benefitting from a PSN scheme?

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