Bupa UK: How COVID-19 has pushed health and technology closer together

Published by Luke James
Medical Director, UK Insurance at Bupa UK

17 April 2020 . United Kingdom

This pandemic is forcing us all to rapidly adapt and explore new ways of living and working to help limit the spread of coronavirus and keep people safe.

In healthcare a key development has been the expansion of remote healthcare services for those in need of medical advice during the lockdown. Using digital devices to speak to GPs, nurses and specialist consultants from the safety of your own home is a logical choice given the need to isolate as much as possible and the potential offered by technology.  

Virtual house calls - 24/7

We’ve seen more customers registering for and using digital consultations, much of it driven by first-time online patients, as can be seen in the experience of one of our Anytime Healthline nurses:

“Now more than ever, the service has really leapt to the challenge with our nurses going the extra mile to support customers who feel scared and frightened. The real value in what we can give back is that we’re not time-limited, so customers don’t feel rushed, and we’re available 24/7 to them and their families.”

There is a growing acceptance by government, healthcare professionals and patients that remotely delivered healthcare can offer real benefits, as this customer found:

“I was severely down with fever and respiratory problems and it was very comforting to be able to access a doctor at short notice. Without this I may have gone to hospital as I was so unwell at one point. It was a lifesaver, literally.”

You only have to look at our Digital GP customer experience to see the advantages of embracing digital technology. Usually within two hours a GP appointment can be booked, day or night, 365 days a year. During the appointment, referrals can be made, and prescriptions can be delivered direct to your door. Given the strain the NHS is currently under, anything that can help ease pressure on the system can only be a good thing.

Digital access to wide range of healthcare experts

The breadth of physical and mental healthcare available, and the importance of these services at this moment in time, is another factor that’s persuading more people to try remote care.

Just take working from home, which more people than ever are doing for extended periods. Having access to physicians is essential for those who have knee, hip, back and shoulder conditions and already our Physioline has seen a rise in demand for musculoskeletal advisers. That’s despite some patients having reservations about being treated remotely, the feedback from one customer was, “I was sceptical as to how effective a telephone physio appointment would be, but the questioning was thorough, and I received sensible suggestions to relieve my symptoms”.

With social distancing in place across the country and so many in self-isolation, providing mental health support to adults and children is vital. Whilst we offer consultations with mental health experts through our Family Mental Health Line, it’s also imperative that expert advice on mental health is easily accessible online for anyone who needs it. This was the thinking behind our Bupa Mental Health resource hub which has a host of useful material on everything from anxiety to insomnia to panic attacks and stress.

Until as a country we get back to business as usual, whatever that looks like, there is little doubt that technology is enabling us to continue to provide care in a manner that is safe, accessible and efficient. And the benefits extend beyond the current crisis. There are also solid health, wellbeing and environmental benefits to having digital consultations in situations when a face-to-face visit isn’t necessary. Only time will tell but there is every indication that some of the changes we’re seeing in tele-health will remain with us long after this pandemic.

Luke James

Medical Director, UK Insurance at Bupa UK

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