You may be weighing up your options for healthcare and wondering if seeing a private GP is the right option for you. Perhaps you’re finding it too long to wait for an appointment, or you need more choice in order to fit your appointment around your busy schedule? If so, it is likely that you will have come across the option to see a GP face-to-face in surgery or book to have a video GP consultation.
So, what’s the difference? It is likely that your NHS GP consults over the phone at times. However, very few NHS facilities currently use video link. Perhaps you didn’t even know this was an option? This article will discuss how video consultation works as opposed to a face-to-face appointment. Using this information, you can decide which option is best for you and your circumstances. You can make an informed decision about the next step in your healthcare.
Is the future of GP appointments in video consulting?
Smartphones are accessible to everyone now, so you may be able to see how the option to choose video consultation could be pretty handy. You could see a doctor on the go, while at work, from the comfort of your own home, in the evening or even whilst on holiday. However, it can’t be as good as it sounds, right? You might find yourself wondering if it’s secure enough, or wondering who you’re going to have your appointment with and where they are in the country. Where are your records kept? Is the consultation recorded, or do you need some specific technology to have a video GP consultation? Will it even work?
The truth is that video consulting, or telehealth as it is known in the industry, is seeing huge popularity and growth. In the age of technology, where people lead busy lives, having a doctor available at your fingertips is becoming a reality. There are some big players out there such as Babylon and Push Doctor who solely offer video consulting and have seen a huge uptake in their service.
Is a video GP consultation right for me?
The reality is that there are definitely times when video consulting comes into its own and is very useful. However, there are also times when it isn’t the best option.
So, how do you know which type of consultation to choose? Let’s take a look at the things you’ll need to consider to help you decide which option will work best for you. Consider what your medical problem is, where you are in the country, and what technology you have access to.
What’s your medical problem?
Naturally, some problems will lend themselves better to a face-to-face consultation, rather than a video call. You should take into account whether the doctor is likely to need to examine you. If so, is this something that they could easily see during a video call? For example, it may be pretty easy for your GP to see a bruise via video call. However, they might need to listen to your heart and lungs, look at your tonsils, feel a lump or examine or touch the skin. This might require the appointment to be conducted face-to-face.
Gynaecological or intimate concern
If you have an issue that relates to your breasts, bowels, genitals or a Gynecological issue, it is safe to assume that your GP will need to perform an intimate physical examination. These will obviously require a face-to-face consultation. Your GP will discuss what is required beforehand and make sure you agree and consent to any such examination. You can choose whether you would like to see a male or female GP.
If your problem relates to mental health and requires a listening ear rather than a physical examination, then you may feel more comfortable discussing this over video link. It is also ideal if you find it difficult to get out and about. Take into account your personal feelings and which set-up you feel happiest with for this type of appointment. It is likely that it will cause the doctor no issue whichever method you choose in this instance.
Physical issues you may also be able to use video calls for
There are also some problems which rely purely on “history” (the story) alone, and examination adds little to the diagnosis. For example, an uncomplicated urine infection can be safely treated without examination. Similarly, you might be experiencing a symptom that you are very familiar with. For example, you may have a classic case easily distinguishable, such as sciatica or gout. As long as there is the provision in place to follow-up if things don’t improve after treatment then it would be fine to start with a video consultation.
If you want to discuss any medication, possible side effects, contraception or menopause symptoms then again, this could probably be dealt with over video consultation. This will save you the time and effort coming into surgery to speak with a GP face-to-face.
If you think you might need tests conducted
Do you think you might need a blood test, swab or injection? If so, then it’s probably better to book a face-to-face consultation, so that these tests may be conducted during the appointment. You could still book an initial video consultation, but it is important to be aware that you may be required to later attend in person for further tests.
Location, location, location
Have a look at the private GP providers near you; do they have clinics in your area or not? If you live remotely you may find it very convenient to have a video consultation. However, it is important to keep your problem in mind and consider whether the GP is likely to want to follow-up with a surgery consultation at some point.
Will your GP be local?
It is also very important to take into consideration as to whether your provider employs GPs who are local. This is because there and are some circumstances where this may be useful. For example, if you would like to be referred to a specialist then it may be valuable for a doctor to have the knowledge of your region. They would then know what’s available there, and how to effectively access further medical care available to you.
In addition, you may wish to prefer to speak to someone who is local to you. You may even have a specific GP that you would prefer to speak to. This could be due to a number of reasons. You may have a chronic illness that your GP knows the history of or a particular person you feel comfortable speaking to about certain issues you might be having. Many video consultation providers do not allow you to choose a local GP. Therefore it is worth checking this before you choose who you are going to have your appointment with.
Does your home or location you are calling from have sufficient internet access to hold a video consultation? If not, would the GP you choose to consider speaking to you over the phone instead? In NHS practices video consultations are not currently available, GPs will often safely use phone consultations to chat with their patient. If you are looking to go privately, you should be able to ask your private GP if they would be able to schedule some consultation calls in with you if you’d prefer.
What equipment and technology do I need to have a video GP consultation?
It is important to check with the provider as to what technology requirements you require to run the video consultation. Cameras are so advanced now that most companies can offer video consultations from simply your smartphone, iPad, tablet or laptop. With Vaila Health, for example, all you need to do is download our App for Apple or Android. If this sounds easy enough, then great! However, if you confess to being a bit of a “technophobe”, then perhaps this isn’t for you. What’sh and you should consider a telephone or in-person consultation.
If you don’t have a mobile phone or laptop available to you, you could look into seeing a GP through a video link provided at many local pharmacies.
Is my data safe and will the call be private?
All telehealth companies must abide by stringent guidelines regarding data protection and the security of their platforms. All of this should be easily available to read within the terms and conditions on their website. Alternatively, you could request this information to read through at your own leisure. At Vaila Health, we provide a platform via our app in order to ensure that your data is secure. Your data is only available to your GP when you give that information to them. Our own platform provides an additional level of security and prevents third parties from accessing your information.
I hope this has helped to answer some of your questions regarding video GP consultations. Many people have never seen a private GP before, let alone over video link; so perhaps the whole thing still seems a bit daunting to you. If used correctly, there is no reason to fear having a video consultation with a GP. In many instances, it can be much more convenient than having to take time off work or move other commitments around to make a face-to-face doctor’s appointment.
There are definitely times where you cannot beat a traditional surgery consultation with a GP. There’s a lot to be said for the emotional and physical connection that allows and it can never fully be replaced, neither with artificial intelligence or video. However, if used sensibly, video consulting can be a handy addition for you and your relationship with your healthcare. It can save you time; it’s generally quicker than a face-to-face appointment, there’s no travel involved, no tricky parking situations and it can fit easily into your busy schedule.
Either way, it’s certainly a trend that is growing in the UK. People appreciate the convenience that technology can bring them when it is becoming more difficult to obtain a GP appointment when it suits them. The NHS itself are also looking into ways to start offering video consultations to patients in order to free up time for GPs and reduce GP waiting lists. Technology is enabling this to happen at an astonishing rate and it is definitely shaping the healthcare system of the future.
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