A UK based virtual General Practitioner (GP) service provider, LIVI, released a new report – Care Records on 24 October. It said 77% of GPs have not received any formal digital training especially in the area of delivering care via video consultation. On the other hand, somewhat 78% of GPs regard poor wifi connection and inefficient hardware as barriers to carry out digital practice. The findings suggest a pressing need to prepare GPs in switching part of their services from the clinics to the web.

Nevertheless, 80% of GPs believed video consultation would allow them to work from home and 65% thought video consultations would make it easier for them to work flexibly. Indeed, over the years, digital healthcare and telemedicine are playing key roles in building a more sustainable workforce by combating the shortage of medical staff and preventing burnouts. 

With that, Dr. Harriet Bradley, LIVI’s Medical Director said, “the potential for digital healthcare is significant, allowing patients to access care whenever and wherever they need it but for this to happen, there is much to be done to get our tech infrastructure ready”. On top of which, Dr. Bradley added digital training should be made available for both experienced GPs and those who are in training. So that they can maneuver a digital healthcare revolution altogether. 

To prevent a possible knowledge gap 

ORCHA, a UK healthcare application evaluation and advisory organization shared a similar thought, they wish digital training is made mandatory, rather than an add-on, in the clinical curricula. ORCHA’s Chief Executive Officer Liz Ashall-Payne believes this would minimize the risk of forming a knowledge gap between present and future medical and healthcare staff. 

“Broadly speaking across the workforce, there is a low awareness and education and so trust in digital health, especially with no governance in the market,” Ashall-Payne told Digital Health News last week. “To avoid a knowledge gap forming, alongside looking at our future workforce, we should also look to the current frontline staff. Here digital health should be part of staff mandatory training”. 

Dr. Sandeep Bansal, Chief Executive of Medic Creations and Mentor at the Royal College of GPs Innovation Mentorship Programme agreed. Introducing change into the public health system is challenging, let alone digital adoption. Most of the time, clinical staff do not have the time to upgrade their skills and prepare for what is coming. As such, protected learning time especially dedicated to digital education will be valuable. 

Not as straightforward 

 At the same time, Dr. Bansal sees the need to include everyone, digital advancement is not just about the tech-savvy junior doctors but also for the experienced staff. However, some experts feel that the solution is not as simple as providing digital training only. 

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation of Health Education England said it’s equally important “to support the system with frameworks, guidance and tools to facilitate training provision” because “the rate and scale of digital change is significant and requires healthcare professionals to have digital capabilities to take advantage of these technologies for quality patient care that offers choice”. 

Therefore, digital training should not be “prescriptive”, rather, it should support everyone, including the healthcare system itself, to be digitally ready. 

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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.