The use of video consultations in Scotland has rapidly escalated since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
Prior to March, there were around 300 video consultations using the Near Me system; by June, there were almost 17,000 every week, with around 150,000 in total.
In Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the numbers have risen in this period from 27 to 3,049 per week, with a total of 27,332.
Now, the Scottish Government team behind Near Me has launched a major engagement exercise to find out what people think about how the system might be improved for the future.
The Government’s vision is that all health and care consultations in Scotland are provided by Near Me whenever it is appropriate – and it is seeking views on that vision.
The Near Me team – part of a national programme known as Technology Enabled Care – is looking for feedback through a survey which can be completed online. There is also the option to feed-back by email or by phone.
Board spokesperson Dr Chris Deighan, deputy medical director, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “Near Me video consulting is proving to be vital for those who deliver and receive health and social care during the pandemic and is being extensively used throughout Greater Glasgow and Clyde. It has enabled patients to continue to be seen on a remote basis.”
“It is important that we plan now for the future post-Covid 19 – and the use of digital tools will enable new ways of working. I would urge people to check out the Near Me vision and give their feedback on it.”
He said the board had already received positive patient feedback such as “Near Me is perfect to avoid using public transport”; “Near Me means I can stay safe while still having visual contact with my clinician”; “I am shielding a vulnerable child and Near Me has been critical for me” and “Near Me all feels very natural and feels like the same clinic experience as normal”.
Feedback from health board colleagues included: “A very rewarding week using Near Me. Two adults with progressive neurological conditions assessed and supported remotely, and another young adult with aphasia grateful for his digital session. Enjoying embracing new ways of working” and “Seeing my patients doing well reassures me that they are coping well”.
Near Me, which was developed and tested in Scotland in 2018 and 2019, was initially used mainly in the Highlands, where distances can be an issue.
However, it has come into its own during the lockdown and is being increasingly used in hospitals, GP and community services throughout the country.
People offered a Near Me video consultation at home need to have a device for making a video call, such as a smartphone, tablet or computer with webcam, and a reliable internet connection. To use the system, patients are given a link to a Near Me clinic and can start their video call from this link. The system asks the patient to enter his or her name and date of birth. The patient is then held in a secure ‘virtual’ waiting room until the clinician joins the video call and the consultation then takes place as normal.
Clare Morrison, who co-leads the national Near Me programme, said: “Throughout the country, health and care providers, as well as patients, have been embracing the use of Near Me in recent months. This experience has made many people realise its true potential, hence our vision. However, as we plan ahead we want to understand what the general public think about Near Me and its future use, and we hope our survey will allow us to do that.”
The survey, which can be accessed at www.nearme.scot/views, asks a range of questions relating to Near Me. For example, it asks if people are comfortable with the idea of using more video consulting for health and care appointments; if there are any barriers to them using Near Me and if they have been using video technology to stay socially connected with friends and family. It is intended to publish the survey’s findings alongside other feed-back, which will then influence the future use of Near Me.
The Near Me public engagement exercise will run until July 24.
General information about Near Me is available at www.nearme.scot and a short video is also available showing how easy it is to use.