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As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, and the news is full of increased waiting lists for routine surgeries, many people are looking at private medical insurance to fill the gap. But how are insurance companies reacting to the challenges of access to your GP, the difficulty of getting a prompt consultant referral, or follow on therapy planning?

Many private medical insurers now offer access to a virtual GP service via a smartphone app, whereby you can book a consultation either verbal or via video, with an appointed GP. In many cases the GP has the authority from the insurer to prescribe medication (which can be delivered directly to you). Some offer a remote screening and blood test facility; this is achieved via a home (or work if preferred) visit by a qualified nurse which can help speed the diagnosis process. The virtual GP can also request a consultant referral, in some cases they can book the consultation for you.

The virtual GP service has many significant advantages in that, it is a 24/7 service, allows rapid access to a treatment pathway, and syncs seamlessly with your insurance policy minimising the stress for the policy owner. Another advantage is that the policy owner retains some flexibility to choose when and where they are to be treated.

This method of initial interaction with the insurance policy also enables the insurer to better manage the treatment pathway, ensuring the appropriate tests, investigations and treatments are carried out in a managed format. As the policy holder is updated of the next steps and results via their app, this leaves the policy owner (patient) to concentrate on getting better, and back to good health, without the stress of having to wait for appointment and results letters.

Some of the insurer’s apps also allow the patient to book their own follow up therapies, the most common being Physiotherapy. You can have the option to ‘self-refer’ for physiotherapy, which enables you to book the date, time and venue which suits you best without the need to be referred by the GP. This can be extremely useful for joint surgery or replacement patients where regular and guided therapy needs to be in place shortly after surgery, and in some cases, for an extended period. The ability to pre-plan your therapy has been a boon to many people recovering from knee and hip surgery.

It is now possible for a policy holder to discuss an ailment via video link with a virtual GP, to have a remote blood test, their consultation made for them, their tests, screens and investigations all pre-booked, surgery, pre book their follow up therapies, all done via a smartphone app from the comfort of their own armchair.