How you see your doctor could be forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a spike in demand for digital health services that many experts hope are here to stay.

With lockdown measures in place around the globe, going to see your local physician if you’re unwell isn’t an option for the vast majority of people.

That’s meant a much larger volume of patients getting triaged by telephone or online and consulting their doctors remotely. There are now plenty of apps that can check your symptoms and connect you with a doctor if you’re feeling unwell.

“Patients have always liked it,” Clare Gerada, a family doctor in London, told CNBC. “It’s been doctors that have been resistant to introducing it.”

Gerada, co-founder of digital consultation platform eConsult, said she found it “odd” physicians were so opposed to going digital when “almost 100% of them will use online banking or online ways of booking their holiday.”

Now attitudes are changing as phone and video appointments become more commonplace. Patients are advised not to visit their doctor physically unless absolutely necessary to prevent the virus from spreading.

That’s led to increased uptake of telemedicine services from the likes of Teladoc, MDLIVE and American Well, as well as international competitors such as Britain’s Babylon, Sweden’s Kry and France’s Doctolib.

Ali Parsa, CEO of Babylon, says a long-time skeptic of smartphone-based health care recently turned around and asked him if they should use remote consultation software.

“Huge critics turned around because, when the need came and the old way of doing stuff was so inadequate, all of these nonsense objections went away,” he told CNBC.

Babylon said it attracted more than 140,000 new registrations in the U.K. since March 8 — the country went into lockdown a couple weeks later. The firm has facilitated 2.5 million digital consultations to date globally.

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