'This is the future of health care' - Edinburgh doctor talks of surge in video call appointments

Demand for video call doctors appointments is increasing during the pandemic, according to a medical expert.

A Scottish doctor said seeing a GP or nurse via video call for health checks will become the new norm after seeing a surge in medical webcam appointments during lockdown.

Dr Zackir Hussain, from Edinburgh, works part time for Medicspot, a start up that provides one-to-one medical consultations over video.

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While the company has been running for about two years, Zackir said he has noticed an increase in patient interest during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Zackir Hussain, from Edinburgh, (right) and chief executive of Medicspot Zubair Ahmed (top left)

“This is the future of health care,” said Jackir, who works in hospitals across the Lothians.

“I don’t think the public realise how much this is going to be the norm.”

Medicspot video appointments are held in special booths in pharmacies across the country.

The company’s computers have a high res camera which allows a doctor to detect various conditions including ear and throat infections, skin problems and allergies.

It is also fitted with a digital stethoscope and a blood pressure machine.

“I work in surgeries and it’s amazing how many people take so much time out of their day to see us for something minor.

“People can wait up to weeks for an appointment, spend a long time in waiting rooms, or have to coordinate seeing a doctor around childcare or work for a small problem that might not even need any treatment.

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“With this service they can see someone quickly.

“We can detect a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and help with primary care conditions such as sore throats and colds the same day they book.”

Fee involved

Those wishing to use the service pay a fee for each consultation during which they are given advice and can be prescribed medication to pick up at a pharmacy if needed.

Appointments are usually available the same day as booking.

If a condition is severe and needs to be treated in hospital, the patient will be advised and won’t have to pay the video consultation fee.

“People are happy to pay for convenience,” Jackir said.

“When you look at how many subscribers there are to Amazon Prime for example, it’s clear people are willing to spend their money on a service that’s efficient.

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“Medicspot is the same idea – it’s here to provide a convenient way for people to receive medical advice and help.”

Take pressure off NHS

Jackir said the start-up’s aim is not to replace the NHS, but to instead help the health service by relieving some of the pressure for appointments.

“I wonder how many problems in primary care we can solve by using this,” he added.

The 32-year-old said the coronavirus has shed a light on how useful video consultations can be for both the patient and the medical expert.

“During lockdown people are too scared to go to surgeries at the moment, or they simply can't, so patients aren’t discussing their problems which is a worry,” Jackir said.

“I have spoken with patients who have told me ‘I don’t want to burden the NHS, but I have this condition’, so this set up gives them the chance to get checked without having to call their GP, which at the moment, people are being asked to avoid.

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“It’s also there to provide a service for people who are on the move, students and tourists who might not have managed to register with a local GP to get an appointment.”

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Benefits both patient and doctor

Being a frontline worker, Jackir has had to take time out from hospitals, where he normally works out-of-hours, to self-isolate as a precaution.

“While I was in quarantine I could run video consultations because I still felt fit to work, and it's safe,” he said.

“Surgeries are currently assessing symptoms over the phone but you can understand a patient’s condition a lot more by being able to see them and if they require medical attention.

“I do a lot of out of hours calls with patients and the video just adds another dimension to help diagnose someone.”

Where can I be seen?

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There are currently five Medicspots in Edinburgh according to the company’s website: Elm Row, Craigentinny, Portobello, Clerk Street and Morningside.

To see others located in Scotland and the UK visit the Medicspot website to arrange a booking.

“I think more people should be using it and are using it more because of the pandemic,” Zackir added.

“It did cross my mind if the elderly would be okay with the computers, but since the lockdown, the amount of older people who have become zoom experts is noticeable!

“People are becoming more comfortable with video calling and I really think this will be the future of health care.”

Pricing

Price options on the start-up’s website include £49 per consultation, £15 a month or £150 year membership fee for unlimited consultations.

Chief executive of MedicSpot Zubair Ahmed said: "When we first started out; we thought London would have the greatest demand.

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“Surprisingly, our Glasgow and Edinburgh clinics are our two busiest clinics out of more than 250 across the UK.

“The service is particularly popular with students, tourists and city workers who don't have time to go back home to see their regular GP."

"The service is well received by patients, with many commenting how easy it is to examine themselves through the Medicspot station"

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