On the digital health frontline

Gigi Taguri speaks to workingmums.co.uk about her award-winning work in digital medicine.

Dr Gigi Taguri

 

Gigi Taguri trained to be a GP, but has gradually moved over into digital medicine over the last few years and sees it as a way to take some of the strain off the NHS. 

Covid has given digital healthcare a boost and she feels that there are many areas where it could help out. Her pioneering work on sexual health and family planning for a private provider has recently been taken up by the NHS, for example, and she has recently been awarded the FDM everywoman in tech Digital Star award.

Since she was a child Gigi has wanted to be a doctor. “My dad called me Dr Gigi,” she says, adding that it was the mix of science, personal skills and communication that drew her to the profession.

She decided to opt to specialise in general practice after finding that she and her husband, both junior doctors at the time, never got to see each other. They couldn’t choose their time off and were so desperate that they once went on holiday to Kenya for just three days. Life as a GP seemed more flexible, it was easier to work part time, it took less time to qualify and you got to talk to people. Gigi’s husband is now a consultant and she says there is no way that she could have done that and had children. Gigi’s children are aged 10 and seven.

She started as a GP in London in 2011, having done six years training after medical school – one year more than usual because it took her a year to decide to move into general practice.

Digital health

At the time online banking and online travel were taking off and online medicine was just getting going.  Gigi could see there was a gap that technology could fill in general practice. Family planning and sexual health had always been big passions of hers. As a GP she saw how doctors saw appointments for contraception as a time to catch up on other work because the work was not complicated. 

She felt patients were being short changed and that there was an opportunity to provide a better service online which would save women having to book regular appointments and mean they could also get advice as well as contraception. She had been working for LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor part time since starting as a GP and in time found herself designing a questionnaire that would automate the process. The algorithm she created has now been adopted by the NHS.

“It improves access and means a consultation is not just about getting a pill, but about being offered advice about different options too,” says Gigi.  She is hoping that she can soon do the same with HRT.

Gigi’s transfer from general practice to digital medicine was a gradual process. At the beginning she was doing three days a week as a GP, plus occasional weekends, and prescribing for online medicine one day a week.

Over the years she reduced her GP work and increased both the time spent on and the scope of her online work. It was not until January 2020 that she stopped doing general practice when she got Covid. She felt she couldn’t continue doing two jobs with two children and a husband who was away a lot. Yet it was hard to give up general practice. 

Covid

Now she is glad she did and says it was the perfect time to do so as Covid hit and the world of digital healthcare went crazy. In the early part of the pandemic, Gigi was doing long hours building algorithms and more healthcare was moving online, although she felt guilty not being on the Covid frontline. 

LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor is generally a paid-for service, but it has NHS contracts. The NHS element has increased during the pandemic, especially in relation to sexual health, as the NHS was coping with the pandemic. “Up until then people had been turning up their noses at digital,” says Gigi. “Two or three years ago the NHS started thinking about it more, but it was still in its infancy. Now people see the value in it. It cannot replace face to face appointments, but it can remove things that don’t need to be done face to face to make it easier for GPs to avoid burnout. And it gives people more choice.”

She adds that Covid has exposed more people who might not have been comfortable with digital medicine to it. She says that in most cases questionnaires can help to deliver more detailed patient histories for conditions such as asthma than can sometimes be obtained through a GP consultation and personalised advice and treatment can be offered. “It is very interactive,” she says. She acknowledges, however, that not all algorithms are well designed and says more attention needs to be put into ensuring they are fit for purpose.

During the pandemic she adds that she has had no childcare support. She has been working from home, but is keen to get back to the office one day a week to see people. That means negotiating with her husband so that he can do the pick-up one day a week. She is keen to encourage men on her team to work flexibly and share the childcare more. She feels employers need to do more to encourage the kind of cultural shift that is needed. “The childcare burden needs to be shared,” she says. 



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