Digital GP services — which have been increasingly offered during the Covid crisis — have seen an increase in out-of-hours appointments.
Research from AIG Life shows that one in six people using its Smart Health service seek a weekend GP appointment, three in 10 want help between 6pm and 8am.
However one of the main advantages of these services is the speed of service, with three out of four users receiving a call from the GP within an hour. This includes those calling outside of the traditional 9 to 5 as well as those contacting within normal office hours.
AIG says that of the 4,200 people using its Smart Health services, 60 per cent of those were able to stay at home and didn’t need any further help; 22 per ent scheduled a face-to-face GP appointment; 11 per cent scheduled a meeting with a specialist and 7 per cent subsequently went to A&E
Six out of 10 (61 per cent) people using the online wellbeing service had access to Smart Health through protection insurance provided by their employer.
Overall AIG LIfe said that GP appointment usage has doubled since this service was launched a year ago, and usage remains high since Covid-19 arrived in the UK. It says access to a phone or video GP was the most popular of the six integrated health and wellbeing services offered by AIG Life through Smart Health.
There has been repeated use by customers as half of Smart Health users (48 per cent) sought more than one consultation over the year and one in 10 have used the service at least four times – an indication that people are keen to change how they manage their own health to fit their needs and lifestyle.
AIG Life marketing director Sue Helmont says: “Smart Health is the next generation of value-added services. It responds to the changing needs and expectations of consumers by providing real-time, integral benefits every day – not just when they need to claim on their protection insurance.
“The usage we have seen is testament to the quality of the service and proves an accelerated trend toward people embracing telehealth and virtual care solutions.”
However, the reasons why patients sought help from a GP have changed over time. While coughs, cold and flu were the main symptoms discussed as the UK entered lockdown in March, the top reasons for a doctor’s appointment are wide-ranging.
Customers have sought help with serious health concerns such as chest pains, depression and anxiety as well as for women’s health issues, back pain and dermatological concerns with rashes, bites, stings and skin infections.