“It is not the strongest species or the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.
When Charles Darwin wrote these words over a century ago, little could he have imagined that this would be particularly true as the novel coronavirus wreaks havoc throughout the world. The first truly global pandemic in over 100 years since the Spanish Flu of 1918, at the time of writing, has now killed over 100,000 and infected well over 1.8m and it shows no real sign of slowing in most countries.
As well as the impact on health, it equally has thrown entire economies into chaos. The impact of mitigation measures in terms of social distancing and imposed lockdowns, has upended the business of almost every sector of the global economy. Medicine is at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19, but it also now faces enormous challenges in a post pandemic world.
As the world ponders how to exit from lockdown into the “new normal”, GPs in primary care face an enormous challenge going forward. Almost all General Practitioners have seen a dramatic decline in patients attending in person for appointments. Of course, during the height of the pandemic with a government imposed lockdown and the risk of infection, it is natural that both patients and practitioners are fearful of infection but there has been an alarming decline nonetheless in patient consultations.
It now seems that restrictions and in particular, social distancing will continue for some time until a vaccine is widespread so it now makes it imperative for Primary Care everywhere to radically change its modus operandi, if it is to survive and thrive in the new world order. Clearly, if patients radically alter their behaviour and no longer attend surgery to see their doctor, this has major implications not just for the health of the patient, but equally for the financial health of most GP’s.
Just as back in the 18th century, the rich did not attend hospital as those were places one was quite likely to catch infection and die, but rather doctors travelled to attend their rich patients at their homes, so GPs must now change how to practice medicine to deliver care.
Fortunately, technology now has a huge role to play in enabling GPs to deliver high quality care. Telemedicine or telehealth are terms bandied about but what do they really mean – in effect, they are mechanisms to enable the delivery of care to patients at a distance.
Most of the media focus on Telehealth has been around the use of video for consulting “face-to-face” with patients. No doubt video consulting is of great benefit and the most obvious example of telehealth in action, but it is just one application of information technology that is changing healthcare. Artificial Intelligence is also set to revolutionise primary care and practices should regard it as an opportunity, rather than a threat, as when used correctly it can dramatically improve practice efficiency at very low incremental cost.
In summary, GPs really need to strategically consider the business challenge (and opportunity) the crisis has created and look to invest in platform technologies that enable multiple applications that facilitate patient care.
So, what do we mean by a platform?
A patient engagement platform is an integrated suite of technologies which can be used to support multiple different use-cases for a practice, that provide benefits across the workflow of a practice, that improves communication with and treatment of patients, while improving efficiency at a reduced cost.
|Triage||An automated AI powered “BOT” on the practice website or using an intelligent voice assistant, that can triage patient symptoms so that the GP has a transcript before speaking with the patient directly.||Reduced phone calls, admin time and workload.|
|Appointments||Patient self-service scheduling online or by phone for either video or in-person appointments||Reduced calls, admin workload, DNAs and time.|
|Secure Messaging||Send e-prescriptions, test results, certs or consultant referrals via secure encrypted electronic means||Improved patient experience, convenience and security at reduced cost.|
|Telehealth||Patient self-service scheduling online or by phone for either video or in-person appointments||Reduced calls, admin workload and time.|
|Billing and Payments||Record all patient interactions |
For HSE or patient reimbursements
|Protect practice income and ensure there is a full audit trail for HSE reimbursement|
Without question, in simple terms, if fewer private patients attend for private appointments, the income for most practices will decrease. Inevitably, in time, future GMS contracts will also reflect this new reality, making it even more important that GPs work with trusted technology providers now to adapt their business models to embrace new enabling technologies and use them to their benefit.
Given the rate of adoption of mobile and internet technology by younger demographics, this type of change was inevitable anyhow, but Covid-19 will accelerate the change toward a practice model with information technology at its centre. As healthcare moves toward a reimbursement model based upon prevention linked to improved patient outcomes, telehealth technologies that enable GPs to focus on patient care and treatment will be paramount.
GPs need to see this as a long-term strategic priority – not just a quick fix to get them through the current Covid-19 emergency.
Founded by an Irish GP, MyClinic365 is an Irish technology provider that has pioneered patient engagement solutions for primary care.
It provides a range of tools for GPs to provide the highest standard of care for their patients and most importantly compliments the unique in-person, face to face doctor patient consultation. MyClinic365 invests in product design, user experience and best in class technology so you can focus on patient care that unlocks significant time and cost efficiencies.
To learn more, please visit https://myclinic365.com/