A new online triage system has enabled a GP surgery in east London to drastically reduce admin and cut the time that patients wait for an appointment from up to four weeks to just one day.
GPs at Stratford Village Surgery say the programme, which asks patients to fill in an online form before a GP appointment is allocated, is allowing them to deal with patients more effectively. It means patients no longer have to navigate the Monday morning phone congestion.
Of 2,500 patients who have used the service since August this year, just 25% needed appointments with GPs. The majority of requests for appointments could be dealt with in writing or by speaking to the patients. Some were sign-posted to alternative services or self-help information which enabled them to directly access the services they required. Local direct access services are made available on EMIS online triage.
Calls to reception and DNA rates were halved, and there were fewer unnecessary appointments using the system developed by Egton, part of EMIS Group.
GP Bhupinder Kohli, who is medical director at Stratford Surgery, said clinicians were getting through 30 online patient queries in the time it took to do 18 face-to-face consultations ¬- making life easier for patients, clinicians and admin staff alike.
He said: “The team are able to identify which patients require a face-to-face appointment and which ones can be dealt with by referring them to a pharmacist or other specialist, or by simply sending them out paperwork."
There are even early indications that the clinical content is helping to reduce urgent and emergency care attendances, as patients can find answers to their queries before going to the surgery or A&E.
Dr Kohli said that by resolving more patient queries in less time, GPs were finding their workloads more manageable.were able to better manage staff absences, and were even able to go home on time.
He said: “We’ve already seen some great benefits to the way we work. As we encourage more and more patients to use online triage and get more people used to the system, these figures are bound to improve even further.”
Chris Riley, IT project manager, Newham CCG, added: “Patients are happy because they don’t have to phone up and wait weeks for an appointment. Instead they can get an immediate response for basic requirements.”
The easy-to-use system also comes with customisable and pre-built forms that ensure GP practices can cover a range of patient queries. It is also 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 are able to post questions online 24/7, and the surgery responds during working hours