The great Communicator

  • 2 June 2009

A GP practice in Harrow has become the first early adopter site for HealthSpace’s Communicator tool, enabling patients and clinicians to communicate via web technology.

Stanmore Medical Centre in Harrow is the first site to begin work under the Communicator early adopter programme and is in the process of recruiting patients to use the new service.

More practices in Harrow – together with nursing teams in Salford, Greater Manchester – are likely to follow soon, according to NHS Connecting for Health.

Dr Gillian Braunold, clinical director for HealthSpace, said Communicator enabled patients and clinicians to communicate with each other via web forms in HealthSpace.

The patient and the clinician never see each other’s email addresses, but are able to exchange information securely as they see fit.

She told EHI Primary Care: “This is in its very early stages and we want to find out what people will use it for.

I think clinicians are hungry to use it when they want to ask for specific information from patients such as questions they need answered for the Quality and Outcomes Framework or for medication reviews. And I think patients who are housebound or find it difficult to get to the surgery will also want to use it.”

An invitation to a patient to be Communicator-linked is under the control of the clinician. Dr Braunold said she expected it would be mostly used by patients who are frequent attenders at GP surgeries.

She said nurses such as stoma and diabetes nurses had shown particular interest in the scheme and its ability to provide patients with information in a secure, written form that patients could then refer to as many times as they wished. Nursing pilot sites are expected to include the diabetes shared care record project in Salford.

CfH has created a business case for further expansion of HealthSpace but Dr Braunold said the current economic climate meant the site had to show tools like Communicator would be used to attract further funding.

Dr Braunold added: “We are providing the tool and we now want to see how much it is taken up.”

In the US the healthcare organisation Kaiser Permanente last week released figures showing that 47% of its members had used e-consultations. The organisation estimated that patients who use secure email messaging make 7-10% less physician office visits and make fewer phone calls.

Related articlesPatients to get Facebook-style Communicator

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