If you had a tumor and could have a picture emailed by your GP to a consultant who gave a response within eight hours, would you rather wait four months just to see him or her in the flesh? If you have a chronic respiratory problem would you rather catch two buses and risk catching a cold from someone in the waiting room just to see your doctor – or would an “e” consultation do the trick? If you’re a diabetic on Benbecula wouldn’t you rather stay there and have reminders to take medication texted to your mobile phone? All of this is possible with telemedicine. And for the last two days I’ve been with the Scots trying to nudge the health service into the twenty-first century – and they are a feisty bunch. The tele-luminaries Dr Jim Ferguson (left) and Prof Gordon Peterkin (right) of the Scottish Centre for Telehealth were up to the wee small hours (mandatory for right thinking Scots with overseas guests of course!) and still looking pretty perky. What are the big problems? The multitude of different IT platforms that lurk in the NHS, fear of change, and lack of training. The one thing that doesn’t seem to be a problem is the public. Once bitten, we’re forever smitten by the ease with which electronic gizmos or straightforward video conferencing instead of long travel can transform out lives.
And if telehealth ever really happens, punters might be more animated about the absence of broadband than the absence of a local hospital. Maybe.