Pharmacists predict growth in remote diagnosis

The government's use of the internet and call centres to deal with the swine flu pandemic could pave the way for a rapid growth in remote diagnosis and prescriptions, according to Lloydspharmacy.

Judith Kleine Holthouse, lead author of its report by the Future Foundation think tank, said: ‘Despite its clinical shortcomings, the use of the internet and call centres for diagnosing flu and distributing medication demonstrates that remote diagnosis can be an efficient way of dealing with certain conditions.'

Currently only a small proportion of prescriptions are dispensed without a patient having a face-to-face consultation with a GP.

The Future Foundation says that the NHS may embrace remote diagnosis and prescriptions in order to cope with an increasing demand for primary care.

Andy Murdock, pharmacy relations and governance director of Lloydspharmacy, said: ‘The face-to-face consultation will remain at the heart of primary care. But for an increasing array of conditions, remote services provide a viable alternative.'

These could include impotence, hair loss, STIs, contraception and cystitits.

An exclusive poll by GP newspaper this month found that nine out of out 10 GPs believe that diagnosing flu over the phone will mean other diseases may be missed.

The Future Foundation is a consumer and business trends think tank.

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