Some UK GP surgeries will now offer appointment bookings via TV set-top boxes and mobile phones. Which is good news for couch potatoes with sloth-induced heart problems.
According to EMIS, the self-styled 'future of primary care computing', rather more than 1,000 GP surgeries can now offer interactive TV and WAP services.
The services are intended to complement 'conventional' online-booking systems. Some homes without computer web access do have a Sky, cable or even Freeview box with a dialup or broadband network connection. And loads of people without broadband have WAP phones. (How many of them use WAP is another question altogether.)
How many people this will really help is difficult to predict. Sky boxes usually have internet access, and it's not uncommon with cable, but not many Freeview boxes are hooked up to the net - especially those in otherwise unconnected households.
Those people who can access the tinterweb through their telly can make appointments at signed-up surgeries using the red button on the TV remote. So you can order Dominos at the start of 'The Simpsons', and ring the quack at the end when pizza-hangover heartburn kicks in.
It's all very impressive sounding, but it's not going to create new appointments. And I have an entirely unscientific sneaking feeling that the sorts of households that shell out a fortune for Sky but don't own a computer, are the sorts of households where people are on first-name terms with local health practitioners, so frequently do they darken their stethoscopes.
And is it really easier to WAP your local doc than it is to use the mobile phone to, well, phone him/her?
Surgeries in low-income areas tend to be the most oversubscribed, too, so unless Sky can get Hugh Laurie to scowl people back to health during 'House', I'm not sure EMIS has done much to improve health here.
However, I'm all for technologies that reduce the number of occasions on which I have to speak to a stranger, so for that at least I salute this unholy alliance of healthcare practitioners and laziness. And the day you can renew car tax via the red button will be a happy day indeed.