Dr Murray Ellender is a London GP and a partner in The Hurley Group practices. He is also CEO of eConsult. Here he explains his passion for digital innovation in primary care and its potential to affordably transform everyday healthcare.
We get our news, shopping and banking online. Now we can manage our health online too. I see digital innovation at the heart of creating a more inclusive, patient-centred NHS. GP online services is part of that transformation and here’s why I’m a fan.
I am a GP partner in a practice called the Hurley Group. We have 15 practices across London. We are a surgery who likes to innovate and try new things and have been using GP online services for some years; it works really well and patients love it.
The NHS is full of dedicated and professional people but we all know the pressure and squeeze we feel to do more with less. We have a growing, ageing population putting those finite resources under strain. In GP practices this translates to reception and admin staff being overloaded with calls and GPs spending too much time doing admin.
GP online services gives patients access to their GP at a time and place more convenient to them. Patients can now book and cancel appointments, order repeat prescriptions, view health records and get their results all from the convenience of their mobile. All patients need to do is register at their practice.
GP online benefits everyone; the GP practice, patients who lead busy lives, those who have a care role, patients with long term health conditions and anyone who wants to actively participate in their health and care. So far 18.5% have signed up to GP online but more needs to be done to increase these numbers.
So how can we increase our patients’ registration for GP online services?
Practices across London will need to champion and promote this service with patients. The understandable fear held by some is that this will increase their workloads. In our experience we saw a small rise for a short period then a significant decrease with more productivity around patient care. Feedback from other surgeries that have adopted GP online services is similar; that having some traditional GP services online has made their workload more streamlined.
We need to increase patient awareness of the services on offer and the benefits to them. This will be helped by the Healthy London Partnership and the Estates Technology Transformation Fund (ETTF) public awareness campaign this summer. It will raise awareness with advertising across London, in surgeries, pharmacies and via a social media campaign.
There also needs to be steps taken to debunk the myth that digital technology is for the young. Recent research by The Good Things Foundation shows 90% of the UK population is now online many of whom are in the 40+ category. In our practice, the majority of those registered for GP online are in the 40-60 age bracket; people who want to actively participate in managing any emerging health needs that arise.
Importantly, we need to engage those traditionally harder to reach and those who may struggle with access to technology. For this we should utilise the great patient groups at practices. They are often the best people to advocate and support the services which actively seek to improve patient experience.
So, let’s be brave and embrace this digital opportunity and get as many patients registered as we can across London. Practices and patients who have adopted GP online services already report an increase in patient care and satisfaction and that’s why I’m a big fan.