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:
Birdie aims to reinvent elderly care with tech
British startup Birdie has announced it has raised £8.2 million to invest in innovation and scale up the business.
The company's announcement is timely as it follows the criticism of the UK government over their lack of a plan for social care, despite acknowledging the sector is in crisis - around a quarter of the UK's home care providers are on the brink of bankruptcy due to a lack of funds and staffing.
Birdie was born with a mission to "radically improve the lives of millions of older adults", by using app-based solutions, IoT and machine learning to put preventative care at the forefront. The company was founded by Max Parmentier, after experiencing his own frustrations with the care system - his grandfather struggled with the impact of life in a care home, but lacked any other option.
In 2017 Parmentier partnered with venture builder Kamet Ventures to set up Birdie, in a bid to fix this problem. Since then, Birdie has partnered with almost 500 providers across the UK, and supports more than 20,000 older people every week. In the past 12 months alone the number of people Birdie supports has got six times greater.
Birdie’s solution is an app to help care providers deliver more coordinated, personalised and preventative care, by giving them access to digital assessments, medication scheduling and planning tools. By using digital tools to take care of admin, staff have more time to spend with their care recipients.
The new investment will be used to fund Birdie’s next phase of growth in the UK, as the company scales to meet the rapidly growing demand of the aging population. The company will also invest in product innovation, creating new features to address customer requests.
In addition, Birdie is piloting new care models, including partnering with the NHS to identify COVID-19 symptoms, building predictive pharmacy models with AI, and helping health authorities to detect early warning signs of patients’ health risks.
Internally, Birdie is committed to having a progressive company ethos. All salaries are transparent, and staff work asynchronously to maximise flexibility and equity. Staff members also volunteer in their local community during office hours, and the company offsets all its emissions.
These efforts have led to numerous awards, including having the best SME culture in the UK, an Honorable Mention in the Health category of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards, and innovation in care at the LangBuisson awards.
“We believe the future of care for older people should be helping them to live at home for as long as possible through the delivery of personalised and preventative care" Parmentier said.
"Birdie is already the partner of choice for caregivers up and down the UK, and this new funding will help us rapidly increase the number we partner with and what we can offer them - meaning more people benefiting from more affordable, quality care. We’re proud of our mission and the values we embody to pursue it.”