Patient signposting and self-care are relatively new terms in GP practice management, but they have taken hold very quickly thanks to the way they take pressure off medical practitioners so that they are not used as the first port of call when a medical issue arises.
A GP surgery website is the ideal platform for patient signposting and self-care, as we highlighted in our last post about the benefits to GP practices of having a website, further adding to the advantages by relieving reception staff of the signposting role.
It's actually quite a straightforward task to integrate patient signposting and self-care into a website. Here we look at five of the most effective methods you can use.
Prioritise Your Calls to Action & Self-Care Information
Use the home page of your website as an information and direction board, much like the ones you find in hospital foyers or places of interest. Carefully choose the key areas you want to guide patients to, ensuring that signposting and self-care links feature in priority locations. This means definitely at the top of the page so that no scrolling is necessary to find the links.
If your website home page is filled with links to old news or reams of text about the history of the practice then patients are going to find it a challenge to spot any sort of signposting or self-care links. Make your home page a calm, clear space where patients can quickly find exactly what they need and will be drawn to the actions you want them to take.
Text links on a website are nowhere near as compelling and eye catching as graphics. Using images or coloured buttons as a background for your content is a far more effective way to call patients to action.
Give your patients clear options concerning signposting and self-care. A drop-down menu that patients can use to select their requirement such as a blood test or asthma review will make things so much easier. Once they've made their choice the website will then reveal who they should see, when appointments or clinics are available and how to proceed.
With regard self-care, listing resources such as local pharmacies, opticians, dentists, chiropodists, etc. will prove very useful for patients, as will links to trusted online resources. We'll talk more about these resources further on in this article.
Link to a Patient Self-Management Platform
It is possible to link a GP surgery website to a platform such as eConsult that allows patients to safely and conveniently self-manage and consult online with their own GP through the website. These platforms seriously boost practice efficiency by reducing waiting times and requests for GP appointments.
The Benefits of Online Patient Signposting and Self-Care
Signposting: The benefits of online patient signposting are fairly obvious. Patients are directed to the right area of the practice depending on their needs which means time is not wasted handling enquiries and patients don't make the mistake of booking an appointment with an inappropriate practitioner.
The best method as discussed is to incorporate a signposting menu into your website so that there is a drop-down list for patients to choose from. This would generally include things like blood pressure checks, asthma reviews and blood tests and any other services that are regularly requested.
Self-Care: With self-care, directing patients to pharmacists, opticians or other health care providers and making it clear when it would be appropriate to do so will ease pressure on the surgery.
Online symptoms checkers such as the one provided by www.patient.co.uk are valuable advice centres for patients with minor conditions who can follow the advice provided and in doing so avoid a visit to the GP.
Of course, as discussed on our previous post [link] it is important to steer patients to accurate and trustworthy information. By providing patients with self-care resources on their own websites, GP surgeries can avoid the 'Dr Google syndrome' whereby patients arrive for appointments having undertaken a general internet search, panicked by what they have read online, convinced that their symptoms are far more serious than they really are.
As we said in the last post, research has revealed that 60 per cent of health care related information available online is inaccurate and just 200 out of 500 sites provided correct information on common health issues.
Thankfully, the relatively new NHS England Information Standard is being adopted increasingly by various organisations that publish health and care information for the public. As health care resources vary greatly in terms of quality and reliability, consumers are being urged to look for the quality mark that demonstrates the publisher's commitment to producing quality information. GP practices should really be ensuring that all the resources they direct patients to as part of their self-care strategy include the quality mark and may also wish to consider educating their patients about its importance.
Patient signposting and self-care are vital means of taking pressure off of GP surgeries. Integrating them into a GP surgery website is the most straightforward means of sharing these important services with patients.
If you would like to discover how your GP practice could benefit from incorporating patient signposting and self-care into your website, including through the use of patient self-management platforms, why not talk to Tree View Designs?