Receptionists should assist patients who struggle to use digital facilities in their practices, a spokesperson for Londonwide LMCs has said.
Concerns were raised at the Londonwide LMCs’ Annual Conference last week (12 March) that health inequalities could arise as a result of the increased use of technology in the health service.
One delegate asked how practices can prevent people with learning disabilities, visual impairments and other issues that affect their ability to access to technology from being ‘left behind’ by a digital-first approach.
Medical director of Londonwide LMCs Dr Elliott Singer said receptionists should be ‘more like they are at the London underground – not sitting in the office but in front of it – so actually when people come in they’re there to assist them.’
Dr Singer added that it is important to identify those for whom ‘digital-first is not appropriate’, such as the elderly.
He said: ‘We’ve got to make sure we’ve got systems in place to look after those patients and highlight it on the system so that we know who they are. That is part of the role of the receptionist.
‘There’s a lot of work that needs to go on to identify if there are definitive practice groups who this [approach] is not suitable for and [see] how we can help them.
We need to make sure individual practices have a system in place to flag them so they don’t go down the digital-first route.’
Dr Singer responded to concerns that time devoted to digital options may ‘crowd out’ those who are ‘more needy’.
He said practices should use data to understand what percentage of appointments should be held back, rather than listed for online booking.
Steve Williams, co-chair of the Practice Management Network and treasurer of the Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists said ‘it is not yet clear’ how much time will be freed up for frontline staff by digital initiatives.
He said: ‘Proper support needs to be provided to practice staff and [there shouldn’t be] an assumption that they will simply absorb any additional workload.
‘We also have to accept that not all patients will have access to digital technology or even be able to afford it.
Therefore, there needs to be a wider discussion about the social implications of this initiative and how the transition will be effectively managed for both patients and staff.’