Around a fifth of face-to-face hospital consultations are unnecessary, a report has claimed.
The study by the Royal College of Physicians suggests many appointments should be scrapped or replaced with virtual health assessments on Skype or apps.
Professor Stephen Powis, medical director for NHS England, claimed the current outpatient system is unfit for purpose.
He said it was time to “grasp the nettle” and reduce some of the 118 million outpatient appointments at NHS hospitals in England every year.
“For many people, care can be delivered more timely and conveniently closer to home, by specialists at the GP surgery or by using technology in new and exciting ways,” he added.
The number of outpatient appointments in England has doubled over the last decade. They now account for 85% of all hospital activity outside A&E, costing around £200 a time.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, told the Daily Mail that the majority of over-75s are not online so getting hospital doctors out to run sessions in GP surgeries is a much better bet than Skype or FaceTime.