Healthcare technology could cut down on staff absences. But at what cost?
5 min read
08 August 2019
If employers encourage staff to use digital healthcare, it could mean fewer absences lost to the local doctor's surgery, but should it replace face to face interactions?
Sitting in a drab waiting room flicking through a magazine that’s two years past its publication date is just one of the less enjoyable things about going to see a doctor. Even the time-consuming task of booking an appointment is enough to put it on the back burner for many.
What exactly is health-tech?
Today, the rise of healthcare technology might put an end to all that. Known as Telehealth, it might well upscale and innovate the healthcare services sector. Below is the definition of Telehealth from the World Health Organisation:
“Telehealth involves the use of telecommunications and virtual technology to deliver health care outside of traditional health-care facilities. Telehealth, which requires access only to telecommunications, is the most basic element of “eHealth,” which uses a wider range of information and communication technologies (ICTs).”
Managers are getting ‘sick’ of staff absences
In terms of the business sector, could this new technology help improve employee health, wellbeing and work attendance?
Nearly 29% of managers say they are frustrated by the amount of working time lost when employees take time off for medical appointments.
Could online medical services, therefore, be the bridge between employees feeling healthier, taking fewer days off and heightened work productivity?
Could online bookings minimise wasted resources?
Statistics from 2018 said that UK businesses lose as much as 77bn a year due to staff sickness and low productivity. With startling facts like this in mind, maybe digital healthcare is a good way to keep employees healthier – and staying at work.
Companies such as DocPlanner lets patients book appointments online, while doctors can manage visits and increase their online presence.
Employees can book appointments immediately whilst healthcare practitioners can also save time by better managing their patient timetables and minimise the chances of ‘no-shows.’
Another example is Push Doctor, a site allows patients to chat with a certified doctor online in a similar way to skype. From the digital consultation, they can get a diagnosis on their condition. They can also provide referrals and sick notes for work.
Could health-tech save the NHS?
Due to the pressures being put on the NHS including long waiting times to access care, getting quick medical advice online has become an increasingly popular option among patients.
In some areas of Britain, one GP may have as many as 3,300 patients. What health-tech may do is be able to loosen this pressure on the national health service by allowing patients to get a quick consultation at home, or even at work.
The risks involved in healthcare technology
Worryingly, 2017 research carried out by the CQC found that GPs working for the then newly established company, Push Doctor had prescribed high-risk medicines without checking whether certain patients had received the correct monitoring and blood tests.
However, this was a minor blip in the company’s journey who in the years since has since received excellent customer feedback and was rated as ‘good’ in terms of safety, responsiveness and care in the CQC report published this year.
What’s the lesson here? That health tech can revolutionise how consumers access healthcare services for the better. But it’s such a new industry that it’s bound to experience teething problems, which as in the case of Push Doctor – can be remedied.
Health technology is great, but it shouldn’t replace what we already have
Whilst the ethos of health-tech is grounded in offering accessible medical care to patients at home or at work. It’s important for managers not to expect employees to solely rely on these tech advances as a means to improve attendance and general health.
As the Push Doctor case has shown, technology isn’t yet sophisticated enough to trump seeing a doctor face to face. If employers encourage their team to use health tech to avoid absences and a misdiagnosis occurs, it could be the employers themselves who might be deemed responsible. After all, employers have a duty of care, don’t they?