Dr Martin Godfrey on the realities of British clinicians and digital health

Martin Godfrey – medical advisor at Visiba Care

Dr Martin Godfrey is an experienced General Practitioner, who until recently held the positions of Clinical Lead and Governing Body Member at Lambeth CCG before its amalgamation into South East London CCG. He has been a practising GP for 25 years and over the last five years, he has expanded his expertise and experience in commissioning within the NHS at a time of great change, identifying the unmet needs within General Practice.

An entrepreneurial spirit, Martin also has long experience in medical informatics. In 2001, he was part of the creation of the first online medical school in the world – a venture that spurred from his interest in remote learning and communications in sophisticated multimodal ways. In addition, Martin was also consulting with the first telehealth hardware device, which he describes ‘before its time’. Martin has been following the evolution of virtual consultations ever since and notices:

Back in the early days of teleconsulting, it was the physiotherapists and nurses who embraced the concept of consulting remotely. GPs were initially resistant as they thought that they would have to see patients twice and it would create a lot of work. As the organisational structure of General Practice has changed over the last 4 years, particularly with the arrival of the GP Forward View initiative, remote consulting slowly became a more central part of everyday general practice. This transformation has been accelerated by the covid pandemic, turning patient-clinician communication on its head and accelerating the move to a mixture of consultation options – face to face, telephone based, online and video.

Martin observes that the momentum for these changes needs to be kept alive as the UK returns to normality:

We will never go back to 100% physical contact. But we risk slipping back to a more simplistic consultation model based around face-to-face and telephone consultations. Now is the time to really grasp the opportunities that digital-first offers.

The opportunities maturing with virtual consultations are evident to Martin – for healthcare professionals and patients alike. Martin points out the relevance here of the Quadruple Aim: to enhance patient experience, improve population health, reduce costs, and improve the work life of clinicians and staff. The Quadruple Aim is widely accepted as a compass to optimise health system performance, yet it is that last goal that is so frequently passed over:

There is a big element here of improving quality of life for clinicians, particularly for people who don’t want to commute into the practice every day; it provides flexibility. With burnout and so many doctors giving up practice, it’s nonsensical not to embrace anything that may help clinicians minimise the pressure in their work lives.

The new structure for the NHS with the implementation of Integrated Care Systems is also a fruitful opportunity according to Martin, who sees the potential of a bright future for the NHS with the integration of digital health in the healthcare professionals’ organic workflow, as well as involving the patient more in proactive care with new technologies:

User-friendly multidisciplinary functions such as virtual meetings with a GP, a hospital specialist, a practice nurse, a physiotherapist will make a difference. There are so many things we could easily integrate into our systems: Remote diagnostics: blood pressure machines at home for example. Virtual care is an opportunity to help change the relationship between the doctor and the patient: Help the patient have their hands on the steering wheel, driving their own health care with clinicians supporting them, not the other way around.  

This can bring a lot of benefits for the doctor’s quality of life, giving them more time to deal with more complex cases and helping them really specialise in clinical areas they enjoy.

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