Online Consult also means more job satisfaction for GPs at St Luke’s Medical Practice in Carluke, who are now able to focus on patients more in need of their medical skills.
Before rolling out the system, St Luke’s Medical Practice in Carluke offered an open access clinic every morning to the 11,200 patients on its list. It meant that patients had to get there before 9.30am - but they would wait anything up to two hours in a queue to be seen. Now, they go online to fill in a form, which is triaged by a GP. If necessary, they are offered a same-day appointment.
Patients who do not need to see a GP are navigated to self-help health information, local LENS service at Optician, local pharmacy or offered an appointment with another member of the multi-disciplincary team, such as the practice nurse, advanced nurse practitioner, mental health liaison nurse or pharmacist. Patients without a computer can ring the surgery and fill in the form over the phone with the help of a trained patient care adviser.
GPs at the practice now find their work more satisfying as they are able to prioritise patients and concentrate their skills on those with more complex conditions.
Senior partner Dr James Stewart said “The system has allowed us to control and manage our workoad. It enables us to direct patients to the most appropriate member of the team, advise, prescribe or answer queries without necessarily seeing the patient”.
“It has certainly improved the wait times for patients who used to attend open access. I think having a description of what the patient’s problem is leads to quicker referrals to physio, podiatry and so on without needing to see a GP first. We can often arrange tests before patients see us to allow a more complete consultation with all the necessary information to allow diagnosis and referral. I would highly recommend the system.”
GP partner Dr John Boyd said: ”There was concern at first that it would double our workload, as we would be assessing online first, then seeing the patients. But Online Consult enables us to triage patients very quickly and then we see only those that really need us. We wouldn’t be without it now.”
Practice business manager Laura Anne McMahon said: “We are back in control of our appointment book, which is less stressful for everyone. Because Online Consult helps us manage our workload throughout the day, there is no bottleneck in the morning.Our non-GP staff are also able to fully use their particular skills. For example, the pharmacist is managing patients on medication such as potentially addictive painkillers better.”
“Patients like the new system. One emailed a GP to say ‘This is a fabulous practice. We are really lucky.’ There is a cohort of patients who find us more accessible too. They are the ones who have a troubling problem, but feel they can’t sit in an emergency clinic to have it dealt with. Now they can fill in the form and get appropriate advice.”
The easy-to-use system comes with customisable and pre-built forms that ensure GP practices can cover a range of patient queries. It is also proving particularly useful for nervous or anxious patients, who are able to answer questions online and in detail rather than in a face-to-face consultation.
Patients, who can access the forms through the practice’s website or Patient Access, are able to post questions online 24/7, and the surgery responds during working hours.