Covid-19 accelerates UK public’s use of digital healthcare
In January this year, the UK's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock delivered a speech talking about the importance of preparing the NHS for . He spoke about upskilling staff and appointing digital experts to NHS boards, to help oversee a radical digital transformation.
Just a few weeks later, the COVID-19 viral outbreak was declared a worldwide pandemic. This unprecedented event has caused healthcare professionals and the general public to turn to digital healthcare in equal measure.
Visits to the NHS website increased hugely during the month of March, peaking on the 17th when , the highest daily total ever. Of these, 2.2. million accessed health services with information relating to coronavirus.
The NHS app had previously launched in 2019. In March 2020 the number of people downloading the app rose significantly. , with the number of repeat prescription requests made via the app increasing by 97 per cent. There was also a 62 per cent increase in people viewing their GP medical records.
Additionally the number of people visiting the NHS 111 website to assess COVID-19 symptoms increased by more than 50 times compared to before the pandemic.
NHS England has selected 11 suppliers to extend access to video consultations for primary care, aiming to help the NHS cope with patient demand during the outbreak. NHS Digital fast-tracked video technology to encourage people to consult a GP online and avoid visiting their GP practice in person.
One of the suppliers chosen by NHS England is Doctorlink, who was selected to provide online triage as well as video consultations. Patients of surgeries signed up to Doctorlink can download their app. This lets them check symptoms online 24/7 and book an appointment with a professional through the online portal.
During the first six months of this year, Doctorlink’s patient base increased by 148 per cent. The total number of NHS GP surgeries using the platform rose by 278 per cent during the same period.
As a result, Doctorlink is now available to over 12.5 million NHS patients through 1,500 GP surgeries, with the number of online symptom assessments more than doubling.
The CEO of Doctorlink, Rupert Spiegelberg, says these numbers show widespread adoption of digital healthcare among the public. “While these figures show that COVID-19 created a significant shift towards patient acceptance of online triage solutions, they also demonstrate that large numbers of patients were adopting and benefitting from these tools in the months before the pandemic reached the UK” he explained.
“Following Matt Hancock’s recent announcement that the NHS should be working towards a digital-first model of patient care, we are expecting this growth to continue. Looking ahead, we are also working to extend our reach to support public and private healthcare providers around the world.
Zoom enters the healthcare market - a timeline
Since the pandemic began Zoom has become an integral part of daily life for people working from home, as well as a vital tool for families and friends to communicate. However it's also been eyeing up the healthcare space since 2017, and following the boom in telehealth the company has been rolling out additional services. Here we chart Zoom's move into healthcare.
2011 - 2013
Zoom is founded in San Jose, California, by Eric Yuan, formerly of Cisco. He got the idea to create a video calling platform from his visits to his girlfriend while he was a student, which would take 10 hours by train.
A beta version is released in 2012, which can host up to 15 participants. In 2013 this rises to 25. By mid-2013, Zoom has 1 million users.
2014 - 2017
Zoom attracts investors, including Sequoia Capital, Emergence and Horizon Ventures. By January 2017, Zoom has a series D funding worth $100 million.
2017 - 2019
Zoom for Telehealth launches, including an integration with EHR system Epic. It has cloud-based video, audio, and content sharing features, a "waiting room" for patients, and can easily be integrated into healthcare provider's workflows.
In 2019 Zoom goes public, with its IPO rising 72% in one day.
As a result of the pandemic, Zoom gains 2.2 million new users, more than in the whole of 2019. On the 23rd of March alone - the day the UK lockdown was announced - the platform was downloaded 2.13 million times around the world.
Share prices rise to around $150, and founder and chief executive Eric Yuan becomes one of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $7.9 billion.
Early security issues are addressed by encrypting data with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). By now the the platform allows 99 people to be on a call simultaneously
New features launch, including Zoom Home and Zoom for Chats. Throughout the year the platform is used to replace most kinds of real life events: work meetings, online classrooms, church services and social events.
Renamed Zoom for Healthcare, users can share secured video, audio, and content through desktops, mobile phones, and conference devices. As well as Epic, it can be integrated with Strmr, IntakeQ, and Practice Better.
It can also be used with diagnostic cameras and other point-of-care devices, including digital stethoscopes.
In an interview with Korea Biomedical Review, Zoom Global Healthcare Lead Ron Emerson said: "Our service is not simply a virtual care and telemedicine platform but a multi-purpose platform that can satisfy the needs of healthcare institutions."
"It can be used for administrative tasks, including telemedicine, medical team meetings, recruitment, medical education, employee training, and disease prevention. Analysing electronic records managed by Zoom could provide meaningful insights into patient care."
Phoenix Children's Hospital, Belfast's Hospital Services Limited, Butler Health Services and the global Project ECHO are among Zoom for Healthcare's current customers.