New figures released by NHS Digital have revealed that the number of patients signing up to online GP services has almost doubled over the past year.
Nearly 14 million people - that's 24 per cent of the population - are now using digital services to book and cancel GP appointments, view their records and order repeat prescriptions. These figures are quite outstanding, as they represent a significant 42 per cent increase in the past year.
The figures also highlighted that on average, almost 2.3 million prescriptions were being ordered online every month and one million appointments were made or cancelled, without any need for patients to visit or telephone their GP practice.
When you consider how much time this shift to online services must be saving the GP practice, it is clear to see there are major advantages on both sides.
Dr Masood Nazir is national clinical lead for the Patient Online programme run by NHS England. He concurs, saying: "There are many demands on GP practices, so encouraging patients to register for online services is not only helping reduce some of the pressure but it is empowering, enabling and motivating more patients to share the responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
"We are seeing many examples of this particularly working well for patients with long-term conditions who can use their GP record to become more knowledgeable and confident about their condition, treatment and care prior to attending an appointment with their doctor or nurse."
Patient telephone enquiries 'halved'
One practice cited by NHS England had halved its inbound phone calls from patients from 50 to 25 per day after introducing online test results for patients. In terms of staff time, the saving was 75 minutes per day freed up to spend carrying out other practice tasks.
In 2015, a Government-commissioned report recommended that GPs should have a contractual requirement to boost the percentage of patients using online services to check test results and book appointments by 10 per cent each year, starting April 2017. Since then, NHS England's Patient Online initiative has witnessed a concerted effort by GP practices to get patients using digital services.
The benefits of Patient Online services
We have previously discussed the numerous benefits of Patient Online services for both practice and patient. With such positive feedback, now is the ideal time to ensure your GP practice is putting your available online features to effective use so that you can draw maximum advantage.
Here is a recap of the key benefits of making the most of Patient Online services:
Reduced administrative workload for GP practice staff
If you consider that every time a patient uses an online service to order a repeat prescription, make or cancel an appointment or view their records, considerable time is saved for practice staff. This reduced administrative burden boosts productivity and helps practices to spend time on improving other aspects of care services, including delivering an improved patient experience.
Increased patient satisfaction
The ability to book appointments online can speed access to clinical services. Convenience is key in today's busy, fast-paced lifestyle, so being able to book or cancel appointments and order a prescription any time, any place can only lead to boosted patient satisfaction. In addition, the reduced need to travel to request or collect a prescription or to make an appointment in person will have the same positive effect.
With the ability to quickly cancel an appointment online, patients are more likely to cancel than not attend. This means more appointments are freed up for other patients, leading to shorter waiting times.
Online Patient Records Access
Online access to patient records has its own set of benefits.
When patients have full online access to their health records, it can increase their engagement in their care and gives the overall patient experience a boost. With patients feeling more aware of their conditions and better informed before speaking to their GP, everything becomes far more streamlined. It also boosts the quality of the interaction and helps to share decision-making between patients and the professionals who are caring for them.
In addition, when patients see their health information in black and white in front of them, it makes them feel more empowered to take control and improve their self-care. What's more, being able to read the notes made by a GP is helpful, because it is not always possible to remember everything that was said during a consultation.
With patient records available online, it is far easier to share information with other healthcare providers, making transfers between different points of care a lot more streamlined.
Incorporating Patient Online Services into your GP Website
A GP practice that offers a full range of online services to its patients is a GP practice that will better engage with its patients and more easily attract new ones.
Incorporating Patient Online services into a GP website is a straightforward process. Whether you use EMIS, Vision, SystmOne or something similar, the providers of these systems have purposely made it straightforward for patients to sign up and manage their transactions and records online.
Whilst meeting contractual requirements is one thing, going the extra mile to provide a comprehensive offering of online services really could make a considerable difference both to your practice and to your patients.
If you would like to learn more about integrating Patient Online services into your website, or are interested to discover what's involved in setting up a new GP website for your practice or federation, why not speak to the experts at Tree View Designs? Our in-depth knowledge of NHS processes and extensive experience working at the heart of the NHS means we can provide you with the highest levels of expertise.
With 24 per cent of the population now preferring to use digital services to manage their health care, should you not be looking to deliver what patients really want?