Near Me is an online video consulting service that enables health and care appointments to take place at home or close to home. It is procured for use across Scotland by the Scottish Government's Technology Enabled Care (TEC) Programme. Near Me is powered by the Attend Anywhere platform. Although Attend Anywhere has been available nationally since December 2016, use prior to the Covid-19 pandemic was relatively small and focused in rural and island areas. At the start of the pandemic (March 2020), a rapid scale up plan was introduced to accelerate the use of Near Me across Scotland. This was informed by, and only possible because of, the early work undertaken in 2017-19. Much of this work was funded by the TEC Programme's scale up challenge. In February 2020, there were around 300 Near Me consultations per week. By June, this figure had reached 17,000 per week, and this high level of use has been maintained ever since.
The early development of Near Me had taken a co-design approach, with significant patient and professional involvement including choosing the name "Near Me". Therefore, a logical extension to this approach was to include a national engagement exercise as part of the rapid scale up of Near Me. Although a survey at the end of Near Me calls gives feedback from users, very little was known about the views of people who had not used Near Me. Therefore, the objectives of the engagement exercise were to:
- Understand the potential benefits and barriers of using video consulting for health and care appointments, from various perspectives both during Covid-19 and beyond.
- Understand the views of people who had never used Near Me, including gaining insights about those currently excluded from using the service.
- Identify potential improvements to the Near Me service.
- Review the Near Me Vision and governance arrangements as appropriate.
- Raise awareness with service users and service providers about how Near Me can be used for health and care appointments.
" Very keen for this method to progress. Think this is a fantastic new way of working. I have a physical disability that restricts my mobility therefore this Near Me service would be so advantageous to improve my everyday life."