With COVID-19 continuing to strain the healthcare system in the UK, the use of telemedicine has become more popular as patients seek to stay away from clinics unless absolutely necessary. Virtual GP services have allowed doctors in private healthcare to continue providing care while limiting the transmission of COVID-19 among patients.

Video consultations with doctors have not only become more popular with the NHS but also with private healthcare providers as well. 27% of UK private medical insurance policyholders used a virtual GP service this year, according to GlobalData’s 2020 UK Insurance Consumer Survey. This is an increase on 2019 usage rates by 58.8%, when only 17% of policyholders used such a service.

While the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will help reduce the risk of community transmission, telemedicine is here to stay. Three quarters of patients who used a virtual GP service were either very or extremely satisfied with the service they received, indicating that once patients use a virtual service, most of them will be happy with their experience.

However, telemedicine platform providers will need to navigate an increasingly dangerous cyber space, and privacy and data-sharing concerns will be on the minds of both healthcare providers and patients. The data collected through these platforms is extremely personal and sensitive, and any security breaches for a given platform provider will reduce trust in the services.

Furthermore, as telemedicine expands from consultations to the use of in-home sensors to help monitor vulnerable patients (for example, sensors used to detect a fall), the data collected may be used in other ways, such as signalling that a home is unoccupied. Providers will need to ensure that their systems are well protected in order to make telemedicine ubiquitous.