A pharmacy group has said the government's current use of the internet and call centres to deal with the swine flu pandemic could be the future for remote diagnosis and prescriptions.
Currently, only a small proportion of prescriptions are dispensed without a patient having a face-to-face consultation with a GP. But according to Lloydspharmacy, this can be an efficient way of dealing with certain conditions.
Andy Murdock, pharmacy relations and governance director of the firm, said: "The face-to-face consultation will remain at the heart of primary care. But for an increasing array of conditions, remote services provide a viable alternative."
A report for Lloyds by the Future Foundation think tank says that remote diagnosis and prescriptions could be used by the NHS to cope with an increasing demand for primary care and the service could include diagnosis of impotence, hair loss, STIs, contraception and cystitis.
Judith Kleine Holthouse, lead author of the report, said: "Despite its clinical shortcomings, the use of the internet and call centres for diagnosing flu and distributing medication demonstrates that remote diagnosis can be an efficient way of dealing with certain conditions."