Coronavirus could herald the widespread use of virtual GP services
Some healthcare providers are offering customers free virtual healthcare and GP services in order to limit face-to-face contact during the coronavirus outbreak. While many insurers offer these services, usage is not yet commonplace. However, this could change in the future.
The use of virtual healthcare is not very popular among consumers, with only 17.5% of private medical insurance policyholders utilizing these services according to GlobalData’s 2019 UK Insurance Consumer Survey. Yet the services are viewed favorably by those who use them, with 70% of individuals satisfied with the service they received. This suggests that if healthcare providers can convince more individuals to try such services, consumers will then continue to use them.
While the NHS and some health providers already offer virtual healthcare services in the UK, other companies like Aetna – one of the largest health insurers in the US – have also started offering this service free of charge. Medicaid, the public assistance healthcare program for low-income Americans, has also been loosening restrictions on telemedicine services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Once the pandemic is over there will undoubtedly be changes to the way the healthcare service operates. Virtual healthcare will likely become more commonplace, as both governments and healthcare providers seek ways to avoid and reduce the impact of similar scenarios in the future.
Widespread use of virtual healthcare services will have a substantial effect on reducing disease transmission. This is especially true among urban and low-income populations, who may not have access to private transportation and will take public alternatives such as buses and trains to get to hospitals if they are ill – exposing many others to the disease on the way. It is therefore imperative that healthcare providers highlight these services wherever they are available.