Online consultations for patients are found to be popular with patients and save GPs time, according to a report by the Health Innovation Network South London.
Twenty Hurley Group practices in south London have been taking part in the pilot of an online self-triage and patient information service.
The report, based on user feedback, found that 75% of patients would use the service again over booking a face-to-face appointment with their GP. 64% of patients claimed that it saved them time and GPs said that it enables them to work more efficiently.
The service, eConsult is available via each practice’s own website, gives patients access to self-help information including symptom checkers, signposts alternative services, and the option to complete an online consultation. It is now available to any GP practice, regardless of the clinical IT system they use, via EMIS Health.
Almost one in 10 patients at the Hurley Group’s Riverside Medical Centre are now using the service.
GP Ross Dyer-Smith has been using the software for three years. 70% of patients across the surgery who use eConsult resolve their query without having to attend for a face-to-face appointment.
As well as being more convenient for patients, eConsult also increases efficiency, with GPs able to handle three eConsults in the time it would take them to see one patient in office.
Dr Dyer-Smith said: “For those who do continue with an appointment, the GP has the chance to read about their ideas, concerns and expectations first. Patients tend to be more honest answering the questions online than if they were asked in person. This means I often already know the questions I’m going to ask before I start and am able to get straight into offering advice.”
“We have to do anything that we can to improve efficiency, make better use of our time and ultimately improve the patient’s experience,” he said.
Matt Murphy, managing director at EMIS Health said: “We are proud to work with the Hurley Group on the eConsult service, and delighted with the results of this initial study. I am sure that we will see further benefits for clinicians and patients alike from this service, which is helping clinicians to shape the future of general practice.”