A recent report published by GP software provider accuRx has shined a light on the increasing presence of digital primary healthcare.
The findings most notably reveal that practices with capability for video consultation increased usage from 3% to 99% within a few weeks of the first lockdown in March 2020.
This was something the NHS Long Term Plan envisaged taking five years, but the Covid-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the use of technology in healthcare across the UK.
According to the report “GPs are now using technology to communicate with patients in ways they could not before” with “over two million messages are sent from practices each week, saving significant admin time”.
The report also shows that practices sent around 500,000 patient surveys or response requests, enabling patients to send updates or photos of a condition directly to their GP without the need of unnecessary appointments.
These methods of communication free the time of up to 15 appointments for other patients or purposes each week, as staff members are saving around two to three hours of administration.
Dr Ali Ahmed, Byron Medical Practice, said: “The use of SMS messaging has made a huge difference to accessibility for our patients. One of our patients suffers from dysphasia after having a stroke. When I called him for a consultation, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong as he struggles with verbal communication.
“I was able to text him, and he responded saying he needed a doctor to visit; ‘doctor please, to come through the back door.’ Simple technology in healthcare makes a huge difference to our patients and the care we can give them.”
The report also points to a GP Patient Survey which found over 92% of patients who had a remote appointment said that their needs were met – only slightly lower than the 95% who were seen face to face.
Jacob Haddad, CEO and co-founder of accuRx, added: “At a time when demands are at an all-time high and morale is at an all-time low, we need to recognise the importance of general practice and support GPs and their teams. The current system isn’t sustainable – we need emphasis on accessible and personalised care.
“Instead of turning the clocks back to a one-size-fits-all model of 10-minute face to face appointments, we should redefine valuable primary care contact and empower patients and practices to choose what method of care is most appropriate.”
Public views on remote consultation are becoming increasingly important for healthcare providers, evident just last month when NHS North West London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) released a survey to seek opinions on online GP consultation services.