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Health Matters: Access to healthcare in a 24/7 digital world

Martin  Trepte

Dr Edward Williams, partner at Radnor House and Ascot Medical Centre

martint@baylismedia.co.uk

For the past 70 years the way patients access their GP services has remained much the same.

Call up, book an appointment and attend. This ‘old-school’ model is frustrating to patients and GPs alike as we increasingly live in a 24/7 digital world.

We shop, bank and search for information online – so why can’t we access our healthcare online?

The good news is that general practice is catching up! In April we launched eConsult, an online service giving our patients 24/7, 365 days a year access to healthcare advice and services.

Our philosophy is to safely provide our patients with the most appropriate service within a suitable time frame for their conditions.

If a patient needs urgent help eConsult raises an alert and directs the patient to the most appropriate provider.

We are now providing services to our patients in a way that reflects how they already live their lives.

If someone prefers a phone call, we provide tel-consultations.

If they like to visit and see us face-to-face we offer appointments, if they prefer online, we now provide eConsult.

The benefits of these new ways of working are that our patients have choice, they have quick access to advice when they need it and it can save unnecessary visits to the practice.

After only one month we’re seeing a difference in how patients are accessing the service.

Forms are being managed electronically, patients who need general advice are using eConsult, patients who need an appointment are booking as usual and ones who prefer a tel-consultation are having call-backs by the appropriate clinician.

This is taking away the traditional morning bottleneck of calls to reception.

Our priority always is patient safety and fail-safes are built into all our systems to ensure that if there is any doubt the patient is asked to either attend the surgery or advised to contact the most appropriate provider for the ailment they are describing.

These are exciting times and 24/7 access to healthcare is becoming a reality.

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