Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated take-up of online GP consultations, according to research

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24th July 2020 01:35 - Health

Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated take-up of online GP consultations: A piece of research has found that plans for GP practices in England to offer online consultations for patients has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The report titled 'AXA PPP Healthcare: 'Digital Health: the changing landscape of how we access GP services' combined research from AXA PPP healthcare and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). It revealed that digital services have been expanded in response to the pandemic, with 71% of consultations delivered remotely this year and 26% face-to-face – compared to last year when 71% of consultations were face-to-face and 25% were conducted by telephone.

In the report forward, Tracy Garrad, CEO of AXA PPP healthcare, commented that the pandemic has 'highlighted the need to ease the load of frontline workers', adding that the implementation of digital technologies could help ease the pressure, particularly in general practice.

The research points out that GP appointments conducted online are valuable in a number of ways such as reducing the number of people who fail to turn up for appointments and saving businesses money due to the time employees have to take off work to attend.

According to NHS digital data, 5% of all GP appointments were missed last year. Reasons given for no shows in the survey included work commitments (28%), family reasons (26%) and just over a quarter (26%) said that their symptoms cleared up before they were due to be seen.

Two-fifths of respondents polled (41%) said they had taken at least half a day off work to attend a GP appointment in the last year, while 30% said that they 'never' make an appointment to see their GP when they're feeling unwell because of how challenging it is to get time away from work, while 37% said they 'often' don't. 

Interestingly, a third of participants polled said that if they had been able to see their GP sooner (than typical waiting times allow), they think they would have had fewer sick days off work. 

Almost two-fifths said they would feel better mentally if an online GP service meant they could access a GP appointment easily and quickly. 

The survey also found that 50% of respondents who admitted to lying to their GP in the past said that an online appointment would aid them in being more open when discusing health concerns with their doctor. 

Speaking of the benefits to patients in being able to access a GP online, Garrad said: "The benefits to patients could include the support of their overall wellbeing, as well as a saving in travel costs, loss of earnings and travel time."



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