The unfortunate truth is that the number of people living with health issues is continuing to rise. In fact, most hospitals and GP surgeries are experiencing capacity challenges, with healthcare professionals stretched to the limit.
Waiting times are also increasing, meaning that more patients are having their treatment or consultations delayed. This has a knock-on effect on the overall health of our nation and further increases the pressure on healthcare providers.
We need to work together to tackle these challenges. Digital healthcare should be seen as part of the solution, not a threat. Directing patients online where appropriate can empower the wider health service and release GPs, hospitals and pharmacies to focus on patients with more complex needs.
Connecting digital and physical services
Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor recognises that digital isn’t the answer to every single health problem. There are times when the most appropriate option is to see a GP, or speak to a pharmacist face-to-face.
That’s why our online doctor service is fully integrated with our community pharmacy network. After their online consultation, a patient may be directed to speak to their GP or pharmacist. If they have been prescribed medication, they will collect it at their local Lloydspharmacy, where they can also get additional advice and support from the pharmacy team.
The Care Quality Commission praised this approach in their 2017 inspection. It ensures that the patient has easy access to the most appropriate care for their needs.
Another benefit of digital healthcare is the privacy and discretion available to patients. Many people will put off visiting their GP until their condition gets worse, by which point it is often more complicated and costly to treat. Being able to access healthcare expertise quickly online means that anyone who is otherwise too nervous, embarrassed or busy to see their GP can at least get the advice they need in the comfort of their own home.
Not only does this mean that more people can access healthcare services, but it also drives accountability for patients in managing their own wellbeing. Self-care is critical to the sustainability of our NHS. Digital solutions can help drive that.
Providing more patient choice
The world is changing, and so are patient behaviours. As we all become busier, patients are looking for convenient and easy solutions to everyday challenges – healthcare is one of them. We want to make it easy for our patients to switch seamlessly between our physical and online services to find what’s right for them.
Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor believes that high-quality digital healthcare, integrated with complementary physical services, is key to the future of our NHS. It must be embraced by professionals across the sector for the good of patients.
Andy Sloman is managing director of Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor