|More than 35.5 million Brits (67 per cent) have put off booking a face-to-face doctor’s appointment when they have needed to, reveals new research from Direct Line Life Insurance.|
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take hold, people across the country are worried about putting additional pressure on health services. In fact, over 11.5 million people (22 per cent) didn’t see their doctor because they were worried about wasting their time.
However, GPs urge patients to continue seeking help for health concerns and believe virtual appointments may be the answer.
Additional research among GPs by the insurer found they estimate around three quarters of the consultations they carry out every week could be conducted virtually with 35 per cent possible over the phone and 40 per cent via video call. On average, GPs are able to see 20 patients a day, however, with virtual appointments this could rise to 27, an increase of 35 per cent.
The health issues that doctors would most like to speak to their patients virtually about are mental health issues (96 per cent), feeling generally ill (96 per cent) and symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea (95 per cent). A further 93 per cent of GPs would prefer to see a patient virtually to discuss pre-existing medical conditions and 64 per cent about sexual health problems.
GPs admit that there are many benefits of conducting virtual appointments for numerous health issues. Reducing the risk of infection for GPs (65 per cent) and other patients (43 per cent) is the biggest benefit seen by doctors, especially in the current pandemic environment, while being able to see more patients daily (36 per cent) is another key reason. Further, one in four (27 per cent) claim virtual consultations reduce the risk of appointment cancellations and one in five believe people feel more comfortable talking about health issues from home (22 per cent).
However, GPs stress that not all medical conditions should be conducted virtually with 52 per cent saying they would like to see patients face-to-face for physical problems such as a back injury and 49 per cent would like to see a patient in person if they find any abnormalities such as lumps or changes to their bodies.
Chloe Couper, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, commented: “In the current environment it is understandable that so many people are worried about the impact their health concerns would have on the health services across the country. It is really important, however, that everyone continues to seek medical advice if they notice any signs, they are unwell and may need treatment.
The majority of medical issues will likely be sorted quickly, however if a problem is left too long there is a chance that the issue may become a lot more serious.
“Virtual appointments are a great alternative to face-to-face consultations, offering more availability and convenience to the patient as well as allowing GPs to fit in more appointments throughout the day and reduce the risk of infection. Direct Line Life Insurance provides customers with unlimited 24/7 access to virtual GPs through the Smart Health online app, allowing people to book an appointment at a time that suits them.”