HCR Law Events

27 March 2020

Could the #Covid-19 crisis speed up the adoption of remote and telemedicine services in the NHS?

Covid-19 is stretching the NHS like never before. Combined with the self-isolation rules it means people are reluctant to seek medical assistance for non-Covid-19 related healthcare issues. But what happens if they do need to seek medical attention for a non-Covid-19 condition?

The answer lies in remote medical and other telemedicine services. Telemedicine has been available for some time. It is the provision of virtual medical services, usually by video or telephone call.  The US and China are readily embracing these technologies in response to Covid-19.  The use of artificial intelligence such as AI chatbots to signpost people to specialists, for everyday medical advice, diagnosis and treatment is also growing in popularity.

Telemedicine enables access to medical advice, testing and support without leaving your front door and with no physical interaction whatsoever. It’s also quicker and cheaper than traditional face-to-face delivery models. All in all this has to be a positive advancement for the benefit of us all in the medium to longer term.

What issues need to be resolved before we use remote and telemedicine services more frequently?

But while the benefits clearly outweigh the downsides we should be cautious about immediately adopting remote medical services. There are lots of issues that need to be resolved.

These include legal and regulatory restrictions in remote medical testing, ownership and control of patient data, and tracking and control of patient prescribed medication.

What other technological opportunities are there?

Blockchain technology could be revolutionary to enable consistent and accurate medical and pharmaceutical data on patients which is accessible instantly and globally, regardless of where the patient is in the world.  Many people have been displaced by Covid-19 yet their medical records are stuck thousands of miles away in inaccessible medical records. This makes life difficult for frontline workers who need to know vulnerabilities and medication plus medical histories instantaneously.

Blockchain and Big Data is also a growing market because it can be used to track and trace genome sequencing for research, treatment and management of healthcare for patients globally.

Robotics has a part to play in enabling remote surgery to be conducted in battlefields and in particularly dangerous or urgent cases too.

Technology is a force for good in healthcare

Technology is no doubt changing the way we engage with the NHS. It is also changing the ways we access medical services, diagnosis and treatment for the better.

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About the Author
Nicola McNeely, Partner, Head of Technology Sector

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Nicola McNeely is a Cardiff and London based solicitor, specialising in commercial.

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