The pandemic forced a change in the way health services are delivered.
Since March 2020 there has been increased demand for digital and virtual GP services. Providers have responded by re-designing or evolving products to meet customer needs. advo’s employee benefits advisers recognise how much clients have appreciated having access to them, particularly where NHS GPs limited face-to-face appointments in many cases.
But with restrictions lifted will clients continue to engage with such products in the same way? Or will digital services be spurned in favour of traditional face-to-face treatment?
Key areas of support around mental health and virtual GP access continue to be popular with employers. We have not seen this demand level off, despite the lifting of restrictions. If anything, once an employee uses the service, they are more likely to access the service again. This in itself is encouraging, as it demonstrates that providers are delivering on their promises of speed and convenience. There has been an increase in demand for digital services, and people are becoming more used to virtual methods of accessing services. This applies to industries across the board – not just health! Health is often regarded as not being as digitally able as others, but has seen acceleration in digitalisation. Providers have developed online and virtual capabilities.
Nina Brown, Health Propositions Lead at Aviva UK Health, revealed that in October 2021, there was an average of 5,000 online appointments a month. In the first quarter of 2022, there were 7,200 appointments a month, with March seeing a record 8,500 online appointments. Registrations for online appointments saw a 43% increase.
Services are less intrusive
Virtual GP appointments, are less intrusive, and lend themselves for people to reach out to somebody, particularly with regards to mental health support. Speaking to someone at a time that suits you, in a place you feel comfortable and confident in, rather than having to take extra time out of a day to allow time for travel, and sit in front of and talk to someone you have never met before.
For those who have complex clinical needs, such as those under treatment for cancer, or recovering from long Covid. Delivering these services digitally is particularly useful, as they don’t need to make additional journeys outside of their home when they are likely to be feeling fatigued or anxious in the context of content. It is no secret that people are struggling to access their GPs and many NHS services have long waiting lists.
Digital services work
Ultimately, the demand for digital health services shows no signs of slowing down. The pandemic has changed behaviours, and people are happy to keep using these services – and in some cases, are preferring to use virtual services over in person. I believe we will continue to see heightened development in this area – why stop what works? Talk to us today about digital wellbeing services!