As the UK braces for one of the busiest flu seasons on record, patients are eager to bypass long queues and drop in centres with the help of online doctors.
Each winter season, thousands of people in the UK that routinely make long commutes to work are finding themselves caught out when it comes to securing a GP appointment near them.
Struggling to be Seen
The situation is simple, people are registered with their local GPs near their home, but their place of work is as far as a two-hour drive away. When ill, these patients are faced with the stress of having to phone in sick or make alternative working arrangements in the hope of securing a last-minute appointment near their home.
Another option at their disposal is to avail of NHS walk-in centres (WICs) which are typically managed by nurses. A Google search of ‘drop-in clinics near me’, or ‘walk-in clinics no appointment’ will often reveal if any of these centres are nearby, giving workers a chance of being seen on their lunch break without too much disruption to their day.
Although a useful service, these centres don’t require appointments and are based on a first come first serve basis, meaning that during times of widespread illnesses drop-in centres may not be able to serve all the patients that need care.
Flu Epidemic Could Hit Clinics
There could be even more pressure put on UK health services this winter, making it harder for patients to be seen by a doctor regardless of their location.
The expected extra burden on the NHS follows reports that the tail end of 2017 could see one of the biggest outbreaks of flu in UK history, after a heavy flu season in Australia and New Zealand, where the winter has already come to an end.
The NHS is making preparations for the arrival of H3N2, the strain of Influenza A that hit the southern hemisphere, by ramping up its annual flu vaccination campaign. However, a report from the Australian government has found that the effectiveness of the 2017 seasonal influenza vaccine was preliminarily estimated to be low. This would indicate that even with an increase in vaccinations, clinics and medical centres around the country could still see a high number of influenza cases, perhaps leading them to turn away patients.
So, faced with this potential crisis, how can patients guarantee that they and their loved ones can put their hands up and be seen by a medical professional?
Technology To The Rescue
Faced with the impracticalities of being seen in clinics during busy periods, more and more people in the UK are using their smartphone, tablet or desktop computer to avail of an online doctor video consultation. Using a service such as VideoDoc patients can be seen by a doctor in a matter of minutes.
The process is similar to using Skype or Facetime and only requires a quick account setup to get started. As well as dealing with Flu, colds, coughs and other winter illnesses, there’s a whole host of illnesses that an online doctor consultation can assist you with.
Online Consultations for Your Loved Ones
As parents know, discovering a child is sick can cause a quick panic in the house before a plan of action is decided. Between waiting for the GP’s surgery to open and trying to secure an appointment time is wasted. Thankfully VideoDoc doctors are online 7 days a week from 8 am to 10 pm meaning you can have a consultation with a video doctor before you have to leave for school or work in the morning and after office hours if your child is feeling unwell in the evening.
After talking to an online doctor with your child you can have peace of mind from your own home in minutes.
Not Just for Emergencies
It’s undeniable that such speedy access to a medical professional is most important during a time of need, but it can also help you with non-urgent and long-term medical problems. Two groups that would typically use the VideoDoc service in this way are women using a contraceptive pill and sufferers of chronic pain that are both in need of a simplified way to get a repeat prescription.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Online Doctor Consultation
To make the process even more convenient for patients, it’s recommended to have a knowledge of your own and your family’s medical history. It’s a good idea to access VideoDoc in a quiet and well-lit space that lets the doctor see you clearly while also protecting your privacy.
It’s important to keep in mind that of course, there will always be times when talking to an online doctor may result in a recommendation to go and see a GP in person. This could be because the patient might require further tests involving blood pressure, a urine sample or blood work, to name a few examples. Your online doctor will always promote continuity of care and sometimes this could mean advising you to share details of your online consultation with your GP.