Online GP Services – Good For GPs?

In a technology-dominated society, it’s no surprise that healthcare is becoming increasingly modernised. Today, the work of GPs and consultants is more reliant on a plethora of electronic systems and devices. In the past few years, the NHS has started placing more emphasis on online GP services – or ‘eHealth’ – as a central part of patient care and administration.

In fact, according to Digital Health, around 14 million patients across England are now using online GP services to do everything from booking appointments to ordering repeat prescriptions and viewing their records.

So how are digital health services changing the face of clinical practice, and what does their growing popularity mean for GPs in practice?


What are online GP services?

GP online services comprise of a number of administrative and functional tools that patients can access online and use to gain control of their healthcare services. As NHS England explains, some of the main features any eHealth service should provide include:

  • Online appointment booking and cancellation with a nurse or GP
  • Online repeat prescriptions ordering service
  • Tools to view parts of the patient’s GP record
  • Access to clinical correspondence
  • Online engagement with consultants

These services are available through a variety of means, whether it be the practice’s website or a mobile app. The new GP contract for 2018/19 promises an extra £10 million of investment in the NHS electronic referrals service (e-RS), ensuring its availability at every practice by October 2018.


Reducing pressure in-practice

The concept behind the roll-out of online GP services across the country concerns an increase in efficiency and accessibility for patients, allowing them to find information, book appointments and order prescriptions on the go.

But what does all of this mean for GPs in-practice?

24 per cent of patients – 13.9 million – in England are now registered with online patient services. NHS England predicts this development will ease pressure on GPs and their staff whilst saving patients time. This is already proving to be the case, as digital figures from February 2018 show an average of one million appointments are now made or cancelled online, and almost 2.3 million prescriptions are being ordered online.

This significantly reduces the workload for reception staff and healthcare practitioners themselves, cutting time spent on the phone as well as reducing the amount of paperwork that must be completed. Not only is this an environmental bonus, but it also increases systems efficiency. Whilst paper prescription notes can be easy to lose, online systems are far more organised and easy to process and recall.


Technology empowering patients

Another key benefit of online GP services is its ability to empower and educate patients themselves. Through mobile technologies and web services, patients are more able to find out information about their condition and treatment options.

Although there is something of a taboo regarding ‘Googling’ health conditions, there is something to be said for patients having access to more resources, whether it’s a website that can help them find the health service most appropriate to their needs, or a support group for chronic illness sufferers or carers.

As Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer for the NHS, points out

“The work to improve GP engagement, patient awareness and the patient experience is resulting in more sign-ups and better use of these vital services.”

This means that doctors will see patients earlier, allowing for less intrusive treatment options to be prescribed.

These developments positively impact all demographics – young people who are very much au fait with web services now prefer to be able to run their errands on the go, from online shopping to booking doctors’ appointments. They are very much adept at ordering prescriptions and using eHealth services, reducing the administrative load on service providers.

The older generation, while often less comfortable with technology, may still see the rewards of digital health services. Some older individuals can be resistant to visiting GP surgeries due to social conditioning or phobias. With a little help from a family member, these individuals can get through the initial screening processes or access out of hours doctors services to get the essential care they need.


New job opportunities for GPs

The introduction of online GP consultations can manifest in a whole host of new healthcare jobs for practitioners. To find out more about East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours Services and the current vacancies we have available, contact us today on 03000 243 333.