Are Online Clinics The Future of Healthcare
The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced many services online. Healthcare has been forced into the virtual world and we think it couldn’t have come sooner. Chloe Marie investigates the exciting future of online clinics.
By Chloe Marie
These are extraordinary times. My best friend Zoomed her therapist mid-way through an anxiety attack. My dad snapped a photo of an abscess on his arm and sent it via text to his GP, in minutes he was admitted to hospital. My boyfriend is having phone counselling to quit smoking; he now receives daily support texts that say things like: ‘keep resisting those cravings!’
Virtual Health Care Is Becoming The Norm
It should come as no surprise that healthcare is transforming with the advent of technology and yet it feels oddly dystopian. Despite the fact that fashion, books, food and homeware are all readily available online, healthcare feels more personal. However since the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have become more proactive about our health and more open to trying different alternatives. One of these alternatives is the online clinic. A futuristic concept that appears to be thriving. It has never been easier to seek help quickly and discreetly without leaving your sofa. You can be diagnosed via online consultations in the comfort of your own home and get plain-packaged treatments delivered by post the next day (avoiding unwanted questions from nosey flatmates). Subscription services also mean you can have automatic refills every month. All those hours spent in waiting rooms or standing in line at the pharmacy to collect prescriptions are a thing of the past. No judgement, no travelling, no mad scramble to get an appointment. The healthcare industry is changing.
Thinking back to when I was at university and was told I would have to wait 6 months to see an NHS counselor for my anxiety issues, I can’t help but wonder whether things may have been different if I’d had access to online clinics then. In the end I became so desperate, I had to use my student loan to pay to see a counselor on Harley Street. The session cost me over £150. An average appointment online with a doctor or counselor costs around £35 but can go up to £50. Whilst this may not be affordable for all, some online clinics offer free consultations for particular issues.
Seeking Alternative Help Made Easy
For those who have found themselves going round and round on particular health problems with GPs, online alternatives are giving us the option to take matters into our own hands. My good friend Loren who suffered for years with hormonal issues and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) found herself getting nowhere with her GP. She believed that her problems stemmed from the contraceptive pill they had prescribed for her. After quitting the pill, she found a nutritional therapist online and attended virtual one to one sessions every week for several months. It was only after doing this that she managed to get to the root of her issues. ‘My skin has cleared up, my periods are regular and my anxiety has disappeared. My mood has definitely improved too.’
The experience spurred her on to help other women online and now she writes a blog Daily Restore documenting her wellness journey. Not only is online healthcare empowering people to make different choices, it is also opening up conversations around less talked about health issues, many of which may be linked to mental health disorders.
Online Help For Men
Arguably men are greatly in need of this new development. According to Bupa, 8 in 10 men would choose to endure illness rather than seek help. The survey of 2,000 males also found that 39% of respondents have let symptoms get to the point where pain was ‘unbearable’ before seeking medical help. Numan – an online clinic that focuses on issues affecting men’s confidence and self-esteem including fertility issues and hair loss, has seen consultations and sales for treatments rise by 85% since lockdown. Sokratis Papafloratos, the founder and CEO of Numan says, “People want choice, convenience and engagement when it comes to their health & wellbeing – digital options deliver on all of those fronts. We’re also seeing the general public becoming increasingly comfortable engaging with doctors or buying prescriptions online now, especially after COVID-19.”
Numan boasts a panel of experts including psychologists, pharmacists and clinicians, giving a more in-depth experience than your average visit to the GP. Papafloratos also believes that online clinics will be able to alleviate pressure on the NHS. “Digital, private healthcare can alleviate cost pressures from the NHS and empower people to make better decisions around their health and wellbeing. The NHS offers a fantastic service but is overburdened, and hopefully we can help with that.”
Numan will soon be offering at-home blood tests that will be able to look at the underlying conditions of tiredness, sexual function and fertility, the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and liver and kidney function. Perhaps with products and services like this, many more people will be able to catch illnesses before they’ve worsened.
How To Seek Online Help Safely
Some people may be adverse to this new version of healthcare, preferring the traditional GP format, but for many this could finally be the answer they’ve been looking for. A chance to address issues at home and on their own terms. A chance to really look at their health and wellbeing so they can become their best selves. After all, these are extraordinary times so why not feel extraordinary.
If you are seeking medical help online, here are some tips on how to make sure a platform is trustworthy:
- Firstly, make sure the website you’re thinking about purchasing from displays the green MHRA logo, which also gives details on which services a company is legally allowed to offer.
- Any website offering doctor consultations should also be registered with the Care Quality Commission and have this information prominently displayed.
- As usual with the internet, if the prices seem too good to be true, they probably are.