The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has issued a list of questions for patients, GPs, commissioners and practices to consider before switching to online GP services.
Practices need to ask themselves a variety of questions, for instance if the service they are considering has been controlled by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or if staff is trained to deal with the new technology, the RCGP suggested in its guidance published yesterday (9 April).
The RCGP issued the guidance after a large number of services started giving access to private or NHS online consultations and the CQC revealed last month that more than two in five online primary care service providers are ‘unsafe’.
Practices should also consider how safe online systems are and if they are complying with data governance regulations, said the RCGP.
It comes as practices are preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), which will come into force later next month.
Patient safety concerns
The RCGP said that these services raise ‘patients safety concerns’ and it is therefore vital for patients to know what they are signing up to.
Vice Chair of the RCGP professor Martin Marshall said: ‘Technology is being used more and more in every aspect of our lives and general practice has always been a trailblazer in this respect.
‘People need to be aware of these, and properly understand what they are signing up to. Often, for example, patients will have consultations with unfamiliar GPs who don’t have access to their full patient records.
‘The College recognises that online consultations can be beneficial for patients, and indeed many practices across the country are already implementing in some form. However, we want to ensure that they are being implemented in a way that is safe for patients, and alleviates pressures in general practice and across the NHS.’