Digital doctors: GPs urged to consult patients online
Written by David Astley - Head of Health & Emergency Services, Virgin Media Business
The take up of telemedicine is really starting to gather pace across the globe with research firm Technavio predicting the market will grow by 19 percent annually over the next three years. Until recently the use of telemedicine has been mostly limited to connecting geographically remote patients to medical resources.
However,things are starting to change. Healthcare organisations have recognised it can form a key part of day-to-day healthcare provision. In the UK, NHS medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, is a vocal supporter of telemedicine stating that he would like to see more doctors regularly offering remote consultations to patients via video link and IP telephony in the next 12 months.
By embracing telemedicine it is thought many organisations could improve patient access to GP services and reduce waiting times. However, concerns have been raised this may be a step too far, limiting the amount of time that patients can spend with their GP further.
To find out if the public actually wants remote GP consultations we polled 2,000 people. Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed said that theywould like to see consultations via video link introduced in the next decade. Althoughjust under a third might not sound much, if you consider how many millions of appointments doctors conduct each year, itis clear that there is a huge demand from patients for ‘virtual’ consultations.
As well as delivering a much longed for service, the introduction of telemedicine could generate huge savings for healthcare providers worldwide. In Lancashire and Cumbria in the UK, a telemedicine project to speed up the diagnosis of stroke patients is expected to generate savings in excess of £8million a year.
Using a digital video conferencing service, 15 specialist doctors in the region are now able to assess and diagnose out-of-hours patients that are showing signs of an acute stroke, faster. As life-saving Thrombolysis treatment can only be given to patients within four and a half hours of the onset of a stroke, faster diagnosis enabled by this new service could save more than 20 lives a year, help 40 extra people to recover from a stroke with no symptoms or significant disabilities and prevent 30 patients from requiring full-time care.
With more and more success stories like this coming to light every day, I have no doubt that we will see momentum behind telemedicine grow, as healthcare providers recognise how it can improve the delivery of services to patients, while helping budgets go further.
David Astley discusses how technology will change patient-doctor interactions:
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”