How can I get access to Digital GPs and health support?

24/05/2023

The importance of Digital GPs

NHS waiting times for major operations remain at a record-high, but now even access to a simple consultation with your local GP can take weeks. If you’re experiencing troubling symptoms, waiting extended periods of time for a diagnosis and appropriate care can have a negative impact on your health, and even worsen certain time-sensitive conditions.

One way to avoid this is by having access to a quick medical consultation via a digital GP appointment, which usually takes place via video call. This type of service is offered on many health insurance policies, and allows you to speak promptly with a qualified doctor without having to worry about transport costs to an available GP, or long waiting times at your local practice.

So, how can you get access to a digital GP and online health support? Let’s take a look.

What is a digital GP?

A digital GP is a qualified doctor that you can consult with online, usually via a direct video consultation. A digital GP is no different to a regular in-office GP; they’ll be able to offer you professional medical advice, while also recommending any treatments, follow-up consultations or prescriptions.

Currently, some NHS GP practices may offer phone and video appointments, but these can be subject to the same time limits and waiting periods as a regular consultation.

Benefits of a digital GP

Aside from being highly convenient for both patients and doctors alike, here are just some of the benefits of having access to a digital GP:

You’re less likely to ignore symptoms

How many of us have put off doctor’s appointments due to long GP waiting times, or because we’re unable to take the time off work? With access to a digital GP, you’ll be much less likely to ignore troubling symptoms for the sake of inconvenience. Plus, as you’ll be able to access medical advice remotely, you don’t need to use up your sick days or paid holidays to head to the doctor’s office - you could even carry out a quick consultation during your lunch break at work.

Faster care, quicker treatment

As we already mentioned above, having access to a digital GP means having access to quicker care. For those presenting worrying symptoms, a digital GP will be able to refer you promptly to the right care or line of treatment, whether it be a cancer specialist or a prescription for antibiotics.

24/7 availability

Experiencing worrying symptoms can be even more troubling if they happen to fall at night or on a weekend, especially when they occur in young children. While GP practices in England are now obliged to remain open on Saturdays and offer bookable week-night consultations, these slots can be incredibly competitive, and getting access to quick out-of-hours care can be a challenge. Heading to A&E isn’t always the best option either, with record-long waiting times reported all across the UK in 2021 and 2022.

With a digital GP service, some UK insurers will offer 24/7 video or phone consultations, allowing you to speak with a doctor or nurse at any time of day, even on weekends and bank holidays. Having access to prompt and professional out-of-hours care can offer you quick reassurance when you need it most, especially if you’re situated far from your local GP or A&E. Remember, no insurance policies cover emergency care, so if you’re presenting serious symptoms (such as breathing difficulties or chest pain) always call 999.

How can I access a digital GP?

The easiest way to access a digital GP is by signing up to a private medical insurance policy that offers digital GP consultations. Having medical insurance will allow you to avoid the sky-high prices that come with paying for private care upfront, while also giving you access to a wide range of healthcare services and perks only available with certain insurance plans.

What does health insurance cover?

When signing up for health insurance, you’ll be able to choose between basic care and a more comprehensive insurance package - your choice will depend on your own personal budget and needs. Most basic healthcare insurance policies will include in-patient care, some outpatient care, as well as digital GP services and online health support. If you’re simply looking for digital consultation services, a basic plan will usually cover this.

More comprehensive insurance plans will typically offer fully comprehensive in-patient and out-patient care, physiotherapy, scans, access to mental health services, as well as access to the best private hospitals in the UK (and more.) As always, each insurer will offer a different plan, so make sure to research thoroughly before signing up for a policy.

How do I pick the right health insurance policy?

Before signing up for health insurance, it’s a good idea to shop around for a policy that works best for you. Not all insurance policies will be guaranteed to offer digital GP support, so if your priority is having quick access to online consultations, you’ll want to ensure that this service is offered on your chosen policy plan.

There are typically two different types of private health insurance plans you can choose from:

  • An individual health insurance plan
  • A family health insurance plan

An individual health insurance plan is a good idea if you’re single and living alone, as you’re more likely to obtain a plan that works best for your current healthcare needs. Plus, if you’re younger, you’re also likely to benefit from a lower premium - although do note that your postcode and your chosen insurance policy will also play a significant role in calculating the cost of your premium. If you’re looking for over 50 health insurance, your age will also usually influence your premium’s cost.

If you live with your spouse and any children under the age of 18, a family health insurance policy might work out cheaper overall, while also offering a variety of benefits for young families (such as parental accommodation or medical coverage for pregnancy complications.) Again, note that each insurance policy will differ from insurer to insurer, so it’s a good idea to shop around using an insurance broker (like Usay!) to find the best option for your family’s needs.

When it comes to digital GPs and online health support, do note that insurance providers will offer varying policies, each with their own terms and conditions. For example, an insurer may impose a limit on how many digital appointments you can have annually, while others, such as Bupa, impose no limit.

 

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