Request a Quote

Request a Quote

Please complete the form below, we’d love to hear from you!

Online consultation tools – improving primary care?

  • 13th August 2018

Online consultation tools – improving primary care?

A reduction of practice workloads and more effective delivery are a central part of what will make general practice sustainable, and the theories and strategies around this are key to the future of quality primary care delivery. One rapidly developing aspect of this has been the creation and refinement of online consultation tools, patients telling their practice about a query, symptom or issue through a patient portal of some sort.

The impact is that patients who are suitable for this type if consultation are managed with online pathways before the need to have valuable face to face GP consultation time. A patient online query can result in a response, a prescription, a call back or a face to face appointment. Given the inherent characteristic of this interaction between the patient and the practice, each action depends on an initial assessment of need and therefore it should reduce workload through more effective scheduling of GP appointments. 

If operated correctly it should also improve the time the higher priority patients get with their GP, as an appointment is now only one of a number of options available. Often these tools can promote patient self-care and increased use of other services such as the community pharmacy, 111 services or the plethora of specific healthcare and health monitoring apps available further reducing demand on GP practices.

Early signs are that these systems are proving popular with patients who they are suitable for, who get a faster resolution to their issue. They also have potential benefits for the practices themselves which are managing work load, healthcare resolution and improved morale, as both patients and GPs can be more satisfied with the outcome. However, this is with the caveat that there continues to be enough patient uptake for such a system and that practices are justified in investing in such a system with all the additional infrastructure required to access it.

There is definitely an appetite from within the NHS to implement online consultation processes as part of NHS England’s digital transformation strategy. In line with this the General Practice Forward View national GP development programme gives support for groups of practices to implement changes, releasing time, improving patient care through finding and implementing new ways of working of which online consultation is a key part.

Over 300 practices are already offering online consultations to more than three million patients and there is £45m set aside to fund online consultation systems in a concerted effort to enable GP practices to make the best use of their limited time and resource. Taking physiotherapy as an example, more than one in five GP consultations are for patients with musculoskeletal (MSK) problems. (Source for this statistic: RCGP) It is common for patients to have six to 12 weeks waiting time for traditional MSK services which are commonly delivered in a disjointed and multi-provider landscape with variable outcomes. Early diagnosis is key and is a great example of where diagnosis and self-management can be prescribed via an initial online assessment or telephone management system. There are already numerous examples nationally of this practice significantly reducing the need to see a GP.

Online consultation systems highlight how systems that are aimed specifically at patient care can dove tail with initiatives that are more aimed at the wider use of online technology to support the back office systems, contract negotiations and operation with commissioners and the overall structure of primary care organisations. Where once the operation of the clinical side of GP practices might have been sacrosanct; now it is acknowledged and accepted that new ways of working need to be found on both the administrative and clinical sides of GP practice operation.

Addressing inefficiency where ever it exists will free up resource that will ultimately have a positive impact on the quality of patient care within a GP practice. With more focus on the business of primary care and the improvement through technology of patient care, the ultimate beneficiary will be the patient. Addressing bottle necks in the system such as high number of phone calls to practices, a crowded waiting room and spike in GP appointments as well as the more mundane back room efficiencies will lead to improved morale within the practice from all the staff, both clinical and administrative, and once again will indirectly and directly positively impact on the patient and their outcomes.

Who writes this?

Rachael Mackay

Rachael Mackay

Client Relationship Manager
Find out more about Rachael
  • Very smooth changeover to BW, with good communication at all times. Very efficient in the production of the accounts (as promised) and the Partners are delighted with the advice received to date.

    Paul Atkinson, Practice Manager
    Netherfield House Surgery, Northumberland
  • BW Medical Accountants have a good working knowledge of General Practice and are keenly aware of the challenges Practices face within the changing environment of the NHS.  Benfield Park have been very impressed by the way BW Medical continue to deliver the range of services they provide from Accounts to Tax and NHS Pension advice. 

    We have found Practice consultation and engagement from BW Medical specifically helpful to shape the future of the Practice.

    Senior Partner
    Benfield Park Medical Group, Newcastle
  • We had no hesitation in moving to BW Medical Accountants.  For any business your accountant is integral, and for us one of the most important factors to this relationship is to have a personal and trusting approach, which BW have undoubtedly achieved. 

    The service we receive and the interest they show in our practice assures us that they have a genuine interest in us and commitment to us.  More importantly they are always helpful and polite to answer even the dumbest of questions!  They give us confidence and reassurance knowing that they are always very up-to-date with all the numerous changes within general practice and we would have no hesitation in recommending them to other practices seeking a professional and personal accountancy service.

    Jackie Rotherham, Practice Manager
    The James Street Family Practice, Lincolnshire
  • We moved to BW Medical Accountants in 2013 and we are delighted that we have.  Having been in the same business for over 20 years it is important to have a relationship with the accountancy team but most importantly you need to have trust.  We made the decision to move our business to BW Medical Accountants and having worked with the Team especially Tina we are very satisfied.  Tina going through the accounts brought to our attention many things that I was not aware of in the past.  The first years' experience can only be described as excellent.

    Customer service is first and foremost with BW and this shines through as each and every one of them are approachable, helpful and most importantly understand and know the business.  General practice is complex and is going to get more complex in the coming years.  We need Accountants who truly understand our business. We as a practice and as individuals would certainly recommend BW Medical Accountants.

    Gloria Middleton, Managing Partner
    Westbourne Medical Group, Sunderland
  • We changed to BW Medical Accountants during this financial year and I would say we have just had the most transparent and understandable end of year meeting and the best planning advice I have ever had in 16 years of practice.

    Dr H Jervis, Partner
    Temple Sowerby Medical Practice, Cumbria

Newsletter Signup

Loading...