Swine flu may up telemedicine use

Use of the internet and call centres to deal with swine flu could trigger rapid growth in remote diagnosis and prescribing, according to a think tank.

Judith Kleine Holthaus, lead author of a report by the Future Foundation, said: 'Despite its clinical shortcomings, use of the internet and call centres for diagnosing flu and distributing medication shows 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. But the Future Foundation says the NHS may increasingly embrace remote methods.

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

The report was commissioned by Lloydspharmacy.

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