Virtual GP Services Could Have Saved UK Businesses £1.5bn In 2019

In Industry News by Claire Ginnelly

Online GPs, or virtual GPs, could save UK businesses a whopping £1.5bn a year, new research suggests…

According to the report from Axa PPP Healthcare, employee travel to face-to-face GP appointments cost UK businesses £1.5bn in lost working time in 2019.

The report, Digital health: the changing landscape of how we access GP services, compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), outlines how virtual GP services can drive efficiency across both business and healthcare.

If virtual GP services had been offered as a first point of call and more employees had used them last year, the number of face-to-face consultations could have been reduced by 50m, the report says.

Meanwhile, NHS Digital figures show that just 13% of GP appointments in England were held over the phone and less than 1% took place via video in 2019. Furthermore, one in 20 (5%) GP appointments were recorded as ‘did not attend’ last year. The number one reason for patients not attending scheduled appointments, cited by 28% of survey respondents, was because work commitments took over.

However, the CEBR report says that by allowing individuals to book, amend and cancel appointments more easily, as well as allowing them to book time slots that are convenient for them, online GP services could help reduce this figure. In fact, it estimates that even a 20% reduction could free up the equivalent of 60 years of GP consultation time per year.

AXA PPP Healthcare says that two-fifths (40%) of working UK adults needed to take half a day or more off work to attend a face-to-face appointment with their GP in the last 12 months.

COVID-19 has highlighted the potential of online health services

Unsurprisingly, there has been a marked increase in the number of people taking advantage of online health services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With strict social distancing measures in place and people advised to stay at home wherever possible, virtual GPs have come into their own.

Indeed, statistics from the Royal College of General Practitioners show that in the four weeks leading up to April 12, 2020, 71% of routine GP consultations were delivered remotely.

This appears to be a trend that is set to continue, with over half (54%) of the adults surveyed by Axa PPP Healthcare agreeing that, in the future, speaking to a GP online will become as normal as banking online.

Speaking about the findings of the report, Axa PPP Healthcare deputy chief medical officer, Dr Arup Paul, said: “While the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the commitment and dedication of those working in healthcare, it also brings into focus the challenges of meeting patients’ needs.

“As a result we’ve a unique opportunity to look at how innovation in the healthcare sector can help to meet these needs, both now and in the future. The report illustrates that the adoption of such services not only benefits patients and the healthcare sector, but businesses too, with gains for both in terms of efficiencies and productivity.”

Conclusion

The AXA PPP Healthcare report highlights how patients are beginning to embrace virtual GP services, with the COVID-19 pandemic acting as a catalyst for this shift. Such online healthcare services are often included in many PMI, Group Income Protection and Cash Plan policies. These services have always been valuable to employers and employees, but in this new normal in which we are living their importance has been amplified.

Claire Ginnelly is the Managing Director of Premier Choice Health and has been in the private medical insurance industry since 1991. All her experience has been gained working for large insurance companies managing the distribution of health insurance products through intermediaries. She has held senior positions within Standard Life Healthcare, as Head of Intermediary Sales, and Groupama Healthcare, as Head of Distribution.