A new report from AXA PPP healthcare estimates that employee travel to GP appointments cost UK businesses £1.5bn in lost working time in 2019.
The report highlights the role that online GPs could play in boosting efficiencies across business and healthcare.
The findings, produced by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), reveal that UK businesses could have avoided £1.5bn in lost working time in 2019 if, instead of attending face-to-face GP appointments, workers who needed to see a GP had used a remote (online or telephone) service.
AXA PPP’s report also sheds light on the potential for online GPs to boost efficiencies within healthcare services. In 2019, 13% of NHS GP appointments in England were held over the phone and less than 1% took place via video / online, according to NHS digital.
Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen greater use of digital health services – with the Royal College of General Practitioners revealing that in the four weeks leading up to 12 April 2020, 71% of routine consultations in general practice were delivered remotely.
The AXA PPP report indicates that outside of this current surge, the potential for online GP services to play a greater role in meeting people’s healthcare needs has been vastly unrealised.
The report goes on to note that, while a face-to-face consultation is necessary in some cases, many patients could receive appropriate care via an online consultation, especially as a first point of call. The CEBR estimates that, had ‘virtual’ GP appointments been offered as a first point of call across all public GP practices in 2019, face-to-face consultations could have been reduced by 50 million.
The report also shows that online GPs could help to reduce the number of cancelled appointments and ‘no-shows’. According to NHS Digital, one in twenty (5%) GP appointments were recorded as ‘Did Not Attend’ in 2019. The CEBR estimate that a 20% reduction in this figure could free the equivalent of 60 years of GP consulting time every year.
While the reasons for cancelling an appointment can vary, AXA PPP healthcare’s poll of UK working adults4 reveals that, of those who skipped or cancelled a GP appointment, the most common reasons were work commitments took over (28%), family commitments took over (26%), or symptoms had eased by the time the appointment came around (26%).
The same poll from AXA PPP healthcare reveals that two-fifths of working UK adults (41%) 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.
The potential of remote health services into the current healthcare system has become more apparent in the current circumstances. And it seems Brits think there’s promise in such services too, with over half (54%) of the adults AXA PPP healthcare polled agreeing that, in the future, speaking to a GP online will become as normal as banking online.
Dr Arup Paul, deputy chief medical officer at AXA PPP healthcare, 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.
“Our findings show that not only can high-quality online GP services help to increase GP practice effectiveness, but they could also help reduce ‘no-show’ appointments which deplete valuable resources.
“Furthermore, by reducing the number of face-to-face appointments, UK businesses could potentially save up to £1.5 billion in lost working time. Patients stand to gain too – from reduced travel costs and, for those who are self-employed, even a reduced loss of earnings.”