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Doctors on demand: why digital healthcare is great news for expats

When you live abroad, one of the biggest challenges is working out the local healthcare system. You may be unsure how to arrange to see a doctor – or short of time to squeeze in an appointment once you’ve found out.

Doctors on demand: why digital healthcare is great news for expats
Photo: Getty Images

Even once you’re face-to-face with a doctor, you may still be worried about a potential language barrier or your lack of local knowledge. It’s hardly what you want when making a medical appointment becomes one more source of stress.

Now, however, digitalisation is rapidly changing healthcare – and offering international residents the chance to speak to a doctor without leaving home. In partnership with AXA – Global Healthcare, The Local looks into this and some of the other ways in which digitalisation is reshaping healthcare. 

Five levels of cover to suit your needs – find out about AXA – Global Healthcare

How digital tech promotes healthcare at home

Many of us have already embraced technology when it comes to looking after our health and fitness. Wearable devices that track your steps, heart rate or sleep are no longer an oddity – you may check one before going to bed or as soon as you wake up.

The number of health apps you can choose to put on your smartphone is mind-boggling – at least 318,000 as of 2019. The rise of digital consultations with doctors and other health professionals is the latest example of technology bringing healthcare into the home.

According to a report by Deloitte, most healthcare will be delivered to patients at home or through “virtual, outpatient, and other settings” in 20 years from now.

It suggests this will come as healthcare focuses increasingly on helping individuals to stay healthy through tips on wellness and preventing illness. The long-term hope is that technological innovation will help make healthcare more efficient for everyone – patients, doctors, nurses and taxpayers.

Just what the virtual doctor ordered … 

In the digital era, life seems busier than ever for many of us. Luckily, a growing number of digital solutions also enable us to take care of crucial things remotely – and nothing is more crucial than healthcare.

It’s not surprising that people are attracted to the idea of on-demand access to highly qualified doctors – all without having to travel to a clinic or health centre and sit in a waiting room. 

Add in the option of speaking to a doctor in English (or perhaps even another preferred language) and availability around-the-clock, and it’s easy to see why apps and services offering doctor’s appointments are growing fast.

Speak to a doctor in a language of your choice 24/7 with the Virtual Doctor service from AXA 

You can get a diagnosis for you or your family member, advice on the next steps or even have a referral to a specialist arranged.

Photo: Getty Images

The global market for online doctor consultations is worth $3.9 billion in 2020 – but will quadruple to $16 billion in just six years, according to Global Market Estimates. 

These services include the Virtual Doctor service from AXA, which saw up to a 264 percent rise in registrations in a recent eight-month period*.

The app offers access to internationally qualified doctors over the phone 24/7 or via video consultation (between 8am and midnight UK time) for all individual and SME customers.

As well as offering diagnosis and referrals, doctors on the Virtual Doctor service can also provide e-prescriptions in many locations, when medically necessary and where regulations allow.

Moving faster into the future

While coronavirus has played a part in driving demand for online appointments this year, it’s clear that the change has longer term implications. The challenges of the pandemic may simply move us even faster towards more digital consultations in a way that was destined to happen before long anyway.

Digital technology is also changing medical treatment in a variety of other ways that could have significant benefits for patients. For instance, big data has the potential to alert health professionals to potential medication errors through software that can analyse a patient’s history. Another possible usage is in predicting hospital admission rates to help managers anticipate their required staffing levels.

What about virtual reality (VR)? This technology is already offering much more than just a video gamer’s idea of paradise. In healthcare, VR is already being used in innovative approaches to treating everything from pain to post-traumatic stress disorder.

* According to Advance Medial, the virtual doctor service provider, based on registrations from AXA – Global Healthcare members, with policies administered by AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Ltd between Dec 2019 and July 2020. 

Moving abroad or looking to boost your local healthcare coverage? Find out more about AXA – Global Healthcare’s international health insurance options

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

HEALTH

UPDATE: How to access mental health services in France

On World Mental Health Day, we take a look at how to access mental health services in France - and what changes will come into place in 2022.

A man sits depressed during a mental health consultation. The Covid-19 pandemic has put us all under mental strain.
Accessing mental health services in France can be difficult. Read our guide on how to navigate this system and changes on the horizon. (Credit: Nik Shuliahin/Unsplash)

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a mental toll on people around the world. France is no exception. 

According to a study conducted by French health authorities in September: 15 percent of French people are depressed (up 5 percent from pre-pandemic levels); 23 percent are anxious (up 10 percent); and 10 percent have had suicidal thoughts over the course of the year (up 5 percent). 

Accessing partially reimbursed or fully reimbursed mental healthcare in France can be difficult. Soaring demand coupled with a lack of staffing (close to a third of positions in public mental health hospitals are unfilled) means that waiting lists can be long. But there are ways to get help.

Accessing mental health services

The easiest way to book an appointment with a psychiatrist is through the Doctolib website. It is possible to filter your search for English-speaking clinicians. 

READ ALSO: How to get a carte vitale in France and why you need one

If you have a carte vitale it is possible to have partial or full reimbursement for psychiatric treatment in France. If booking an appointment online, be sure to check whether the doctor is conventionné secteur 1 to get the highest level of reimbursement possible.

You can read an approximate guide to current reimbursement levels HERE.

Psychologists (who are unable to prescribe drugs) are not considered doctors in France and therefore consultations with this kind of practitioner are rarely reimbursed. However, you may be able to access both psychological and psychiatric treatment if you can get an appointment in a Medical Psychology Center (centre medico psychologique – CMP). These services are free but often require a referral letter from a GP.

Counselling is another option. Generally less qualified than psychologists or psychiatrists, counsellors can provide a simple form of listening therapy. Anne Poulton, a retired professional counsellor with an NHS Community Mental Health team, set up the Counselling in France website after moving to France with her husband in 2000. It serves as a directory for English-speaking counsellors who may be able to help you. These services are not covered by social security.

READ ALSO: Health insurance in France – what you need to know about a mutuelle

Private mental healthcare will only be reimbursed if you have a private insurance (mutuelle) which specifically covers this kind of healthcare. It is however, easier to get an appointment quickly if you go down this route. 

Upcoming changes

In September, President Macron made a number of announcements that should significantly improve access to mental health services from an unspecified date in 2022. 

Psychological consultations will finally be at least partially reimbursed by the state – although you will need to have a recommendation letter from a GP to benefit from this.

For everyone with a carte vitale, the state has promised to cover ten psychological consultations at the price of €40 each. These ten consultations can be renewed once. After that, patients will continue to receive reimbursement, to the tune of €30 per session. 

READ ALSO: What your French health insurance card entitles you to

The French government intends to spend €50 million to cover these costs in 2022 and a further €100 million in 2023. 

CMPs are to employ a further 800 staff, which will help to absorb some of the demand for free mental healthcare. 

The government has also promised to invest €80 million in neuroscience research in a bid to find better treatments to the country’s mental health crisis. 

Helplines

SOS Helpline offers a telephone listening service in English – 01 46 21 46 46

The UK-based Samaritans can be accessed from France – 0044 8457 909090

If you are experiencing domestic violence you can call (English-speakers may not always be available) or report online HERE.

The British Consulate is able to advise you on various treatment options available but cannot give clinical advice on individual mental problems – 01 44 51 31 00

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