The rise of Virtual GP services in the workplace

Virtual GP service on a mobile app The RU Group

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By William Johnson, Managing Director at The Ink Group, one of our professional partners.

The use of technology is starting to change how we access healthcare services. It is taking strain off the NHS and can be harnessed to provide additional benefits to employees. Providing staff benefits based on health and wellness is valued by employees and fundamental to a ‘whole person’ approach to fulfilment at work.

Life insurance and gym memberships are increasingly common, and now offering your staff access to a Virtual GP is another benefit that can be offered to promote the health and wellbeing of employees.

What is a Virtual GP?

A Virtual GP is in essence an App or a website that uses algorithms (patterns and rules) and machine learning (understanding and extrapolating from those patterns and rules) to identify medical conditions and provide suggested next actions.

These next actions could be anything from “don’t worry” to “go at A&E immediately” and everything in between. Virtual GP platforms are designed to bring great healthcare to everyone, with no barriers to time, budget or location.

In the corporate world, Virtual GP services are making a big impact, as employers look to enhance their health & wellbeing strategy for employees. If improved use of technology leads to quicker diagnosis of issues and quicker treatment, then employees are back in work quicker and ultimately more productive. It’s not hard to see the link.

Why use a Virtual GP?

Private Medical Insurance providers are taking this model even further and using Virtual GP as an alternative to a traditional GP referral. The referral aspect of Virtual GP for existing Private Medical Insurance (PMI) schemes is a great enhancement which will be rolled out by most providers by the end of 2019.  For companies looking to introduce PMI, this is a further reason to go ahead and put the cover in place.

However, it’s not just PMI providers getting in on the act. Group insurance provider, AIG Life, has just launched a new Virtual GP service for employees of clients with group protection schemes as a free value-added benefit. This means that, alongside providing a simple and inexpensive benefit, such as Group Life Assurance, employees get free access to a UK-based GP, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of if they want to make an appointment whilst in the UK or when they are on holiday. To give employees the peace of mind to know that, in the event of a young child falling sick whilst on holiday, that they could contact a GP back home and have a 30 minute consultation to get expert advice, is a great benefit for any company to offer.

This service offered by AIG Life isn’t designed to replace someone’s current GP, as there will always be times when a face-to-face appointment is needed. However, it can be used when an appointment in person isn’t required. At the end of the consultation, individuals can agree for the information discussed with the Virtual GP to be shared with the patient’s existing NHS GP or not. The Virtual GP can also prescribe medicine, where applicable, or make a referral for the individual to receive further treatment through a PMI scheme.

Are Virtual GP services a good idea?

We see Virtual GPs as a huge step forward in ensuring that people can access expert healthcare advice when and where it suits them. For employers offering this benefit, they are providing those employees who take advantage of the service with a benefit that would cost them around £20 – £40 per appointment if they were to pay for this themselves.

To find out how you could enhance your employee benefits package and give your staff access to a Virtual GP service, please call us on 01858 810200 or email us [email protected].

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