Dr Ross Dyer-Smith

We’re underway! The campaign to promote online booking services has begun by Dr Ross Dyer-Smith

April 30, 2016

As you will have read in our first newsletter, over the course of the next five months, and with the support from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, Lambeth GP Federation will be running a community awareness campaign to increase the adoption of online bookings, promote the Lambeth Patient Access system, and grow community awareness of this important capability within the Borough.

In this edition of our newsletter we want to explore in greater detail the benefits of the online booking service. We want to understand the particular benefits to patients and GPs, and the wider positive societal impact which raising the number of patients using online services to 50 per cent and above can, and we believe will, have on our community.

Under the magnifying glass – The importance of the Lambeth Patient Online campaign

The potential benefits associated with growing our online patient community are massive.

Lambeth has a mostly young patient community, ideal candidates for managing their own healthcare requirements and, in particular, booking their own appointments.

And yet there are many patients who are still coming into clinics to arrange consultations and ordering repeat prescriptions. Up to this point it has been a slow journey to promote the benefits of online booking and a host of wider services on what has largely been a patient-by-patient basis across a community of 10,000.

Primary care – the importance of frontline services

Allocating the most amount of time to supporting the sick and the vulnerable. It sounds obvious doesn’t it? If we as a federation can get many more of our healthy patients using online services, there will be more time available to see those who are elderly and chronically ill, while also reaching out to schools and colleges to educate the young on healthcare, and supporting the homeless and other important vulnerable communities facing more acute problems.

We need to think of this approach as a ‘channel shift’. It’s not about creating a two-tier system, it is about opening up those regular channels for people who need more attention and support

We need to think of this approach as a ‘channel shift’. It’s not about creating a two-tier system, it is about opening up those regular channels for people who need more attention and support, while continuing in a faster, more efficient manner with the more ordinary business of the day, such as sorting out prescriptions, talking to patients about blood results and following up on letters from consultants which may have gone astray. We can quickly see how valuable time can be lost to administrative tasks in the course of an ordinary week.

The benefits of going digital

The NHS is like the proverbial pie. If one were to get a group of health professionals and patients in a room they would all fight over which share of services they consider most important to provide.

Imagine the challenges of allocating time and resources in this manner and one is quickly faced with some pretty extreme decisions. An unlikely scenario might be being lobbied to prescribe a very expensive acne treatment to a number of patients, which might very well necessitate switching off two incubators for newborn babies. Of course, such a thing would never happen, but it does illustrate how subjective and potentially dangerous such decision-making might be.

However, carving up our imaginary NHS pie is only one way of managing the NHS budget. If, however, you approach this from the point of view of a channel shift supported by patients using online services, then it might free up as much as an entire day every week for GPs to manage outreach programmes for the homeless, or teach healthcare in schools.

The benefits of booking online and wider online services

Increased patient satisfaction: Online appointment booking offers improved and faster access to clinical expertise, leading to higher levels of patient satisfaction and enhanced health and wellbeing.

Reduced administrative workload: The use of online services, and in particular booking consultations online, supports improved business processes, helping to reduce the administrative workload of practice staff. Time released by such efficiencies will be available to support increased productivity and improvements to other aspects of care services, and the provision of better ‘at home’ services to the elderly, the sick and the vulnerable

Improved access to care services: Online access helps to improve access to care services, making them more convenient, with streamlined transfers between different points of care. In turn, this contributes to improvements in levels of patient satisfaction and more efficient delivery of services, supporting better use of clinical time.

Reduced travel for patients: Increased use of online booking and repeat prescription services can lead to reduced travel time for patients, more convenience and higher levels of patient satisfaction.

Improved communication between patients and practices: Online booking services can improve communication between patients and their practices, leading to higher levels of convenience and patient satisfaction.

Increased operational efficiencies for practices: An increase in the number of patients booking, cancelling and amending appointments online can reduce phone calls to practices. Benefits for patients and staff include increased patient satisfaction and greater operational efficiencies for the practice.