Digital Health Legal
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Volume: 4 Issue: 7
(July 2017)

uk care quality commission continues scrutiny online healthcare services uks care quality commission (cqc published reports findings recent inspections


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UK Care Quality Commission continues scrutiny of online healthcare services

The UKs Care Quality Commission (CQC) published reports on the findings of its recent inspections into the Push Doctor and Pharmacy2U digital services on 22 June 2017 and 29 June 2017 respectively, with both reports raising concerns about the services; the CQC declared that while both online services were providing caring and responsive services, neither were providing safe, effective or well-led services. The inspections form part of the CQCs continuing greater scrutiny of online healthcare services.

Industry-wide, the CQC is making a concerted effort to identify non-compliant digital providers and take appropriate action to hold them to account, said Joel Nixon, Solicitor at Browne Jacobson LLP. In an ever-increasingly digitised world, where patients are empowered with information at their fingertips and hold expectations of immediate results, it is unsurprising that the CQC has begun to assess the provision of healthcare services online with greater scrutiny. The demand for these services continues to grow as sections of the population place greater emphasis on convenience in addressing their healthcare needs over the traditional comforts of bedside manner. Against this backdrop, the CQC shall no doubt continue to work towards ensuring that this is not at the expense of safe and high quality care.

Both providers must now make a number of improvements to their service. Specifically, the CQCs requirements for Push Doctor include that the service must ensure it has an accurate and complete record of all those who use its service and that its prescribing conditions are based on best clinical practice and General Medical Council guidelines. Meanwhile, the CQCs requirements for Pharmacy2U include that the service must ensure that it has an effective patient identification process in place and that it must maintain contracted GPs training records.

The CQC has identified five domains of quality care that providers should demonstrate to achieve compliance: services must evidence that they are safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led, explains Nixon. For example, providers must ensure that they have relevant knowledge, skills and experience for conditions being treated and ensure that appropriate protocols are in place for prescribing high-risk medicines and antibiotics. The efficiencies that the provision of primary healthcare services via a digital platform present are numerous and have benefits for providers and patients alike. The temptation to migrate towards automation of services, however, is one that providers should avoid at all costs. The CQC requires and expects online providers to adhere to the same standards as conventional providers and it is only with this genuinely in mind that providers can avoid falling foul of the regulations.

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