I was fascinated to read that free wifi is to going to rolled out gradually to all GPs’ surgeries across the UK. At first glance it seems like a ‘nice’ idea but I actually think this could be the start of something which could revolutionise health care in London and across the UK.
The idea has so far been trialled in only a few GPs’ surgeries in London, Bolton, Newcastle and a few other locations. It’ll be free to go online and when you log in, you will initially arrive at an NHS landing page. The page will have health care information which you can look through. You can then go on to look at other things.
So, at first glance this comes across as something that could be useful. If you are sitting in a GP’s surgery twiddling your thumbs waiting for your appointment, then you can get on with other things. I think all of us would rather be answering emails instead of staying late to get them done when we get back to the office. One of my staff always complains about the lack of mobile signal at his health centre. Maybe he’s just trying to avoid me but he insists he can’t get a connection.
What really interests me though is the potential of free wifi at GPs’ surgeries in the future.
Imagine that when you arrive, you could check yourself in via your phone as your device connects with the health centre’s wifi, freeing up valuable time for receptionists who could be handling more serious patient queries.
Imagine that when you arrive your device gives you a list of what to expect from your doctor on this visit? Perhaps if you are turning up for a procedure, some advice on what will happen and answers to some of your concerns. Perhaps if you are an expectant mother, it could provide you with useful tips to browse through while you are waiting to see the nurse.
What if the system could ask you simple questions which every doctor would ask in advance to help save the doctor time in your appointment? What if patients decide to access other medical websites to research their condition and perhaps allow them to question their doctor in a more informed way? This could lead to patients receiving better care and doctors providing a better service at the same time.
The surgery homepage could guide some patients who didn’t really need to see a doctor towards the chemist instead? I know one of my local health centres has a pharmacy as part of the same building. Perhaps your wifi enabled device could ask you questions about your condition and advise you to visit the chemist. Remember pharmacists are well trained and that face-to-face contact could allow them to assess if all you really need to see the doctor, or just need some over the counter medication.
You could even get a notification for how long you will need to wait, so you know whether that toilet visit is possible or not!
As with all technological advances we just don’t know their potential yet and I’m sure as free wifi is rolled out in GPs surgeries we’ll start to see people coming up with new and innovative ways to use this technology but these systems could open up new possibilities to improve health care for all of us.