By: Waqaar Khawar, MS3

In an effort to decrease costs, UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt plans to create a new system of “virtual clinics.” Modeling after systems in India, patients would connect to their physicians using their iPad and Skype.

Physicians would collect data from patients via phone and iPad apps that would sometimes include video chats with GPs. The need for in-person appointments would be further decreased by relaying data to patients via mobile apps or text messages. This would include health records and negative test results.

Supporters believe these changes are necessary to close a £20 billion budget gap for the NHS. They claim that these measures would decrease costs immediately as well as decrease future costs by improving patient care through preventative means.

The opposition claims that this type of system would create two different levels of access to medicine dependent upon whether patients have access to the technology required to participate in the new system.

Additionally, many believe that in-person care allows physicians to identify more subtle health issues as well as build stronger relationships with patients.

Chief executive of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy said: “The telehealth agenda must be driven by a desire to improve clinical outcomes and patient care, not the Government’s plans to save £20 billion.”