Virtual clinics for NHS patients in Scotland

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is investing in digital health.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is investing in digital health.
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Patients in Scotland will be encouraged to take part in “virtual clinics” as part of a drive to relieve pressure on the service.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) said its new digital strategy would improve care for patients, allowing them to self-manage health conditions from home, as well as making the cash-strapped health service more “sustainable” in future.

The digital strategy could see patients accessing care through a laptop, smart phone app, video conference or online portal.

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Patients will also be encouraged to track their own health using wearable technology.

NHS GGC’s director of eHealth, William Edwards said: “People expect to use technology in all areas of their lives and health and care should be no exception. With most people owning a smart phone, the bar is set high in terms of what the ‘computer in our pocket’ can do to make our lives more healthy, convenient and productive.

“Technology such as fitness and exercise apps have proved that an active lifestyle can be fun and socially rewarding, and access to medical advice is becoming more prevalent via digital channels.

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“Digital technology provides the opportunities to support transformational change and to make care safer, sustainable and allow people to become active participants in their care.

“It also has the potential to radically improve our lives, and this includes all aspects of health and care. Digital technology will be central to delivering the transformational change that is necessary to support integrated health and social care into the future.”

William added: “Opportunity exists to implement virtual clinics and online appointment capability to facilitate the option for remote consultations using digital means via a laptop or smart phone app, telephone, email, video conference or online portals.”

The Board will also explore using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for routing referrals to reduce the time taken to make decisions.

William said: “This is a very ambitious and exciting strategy for NHSGGC and I am optimistic that our staff will seize this opportunity not only to use technology to make the patient experience better but also to relieve pressure on our services.

“With the increasing impact of digital across the organisation, it is important to provide feedback – to ensure that the digital strategy continues to meet not only the strategic direction of the Board, and the Scottish Government, but also the needs of our patients.”