More than 550,000 patients in Devon are now able to benefit from 24-hour online access to their GP practice.
The new service is on many of Devon practices’ websites, aiming to help people get the right treatment they need at a time that is convenient to them.
Its introduction has been overseen by the county’s two NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), enabling patients to use online consultation technology for non-emergency ailments.
More registered Devon patients than anywhere else in the region can now fill out an online e-consultation form, which is then reviewed by a GP, before a response is sent to the patient within one working day.
In October alone, more than 2,400 online consultations took place across the county. These would otherwise have been face-to-face consultations, so GPs’ time was freed up to see more patients with more urgent needs.
The range of innovative self-help tools available in the service also includes symptom-checkers, instructive video content created by GPs, and advice about the various places a patient can get help, including pharmacies, the NHS 111 helpline or an available app.
Dr John McCormick, chief clinical information officer for Devon’s CCGs, said: “eConsult is a new way of being able to contact your GP and get medical advice from your practice. You go onto your practice website and it’s right there in the centre of the website.
“We have piloted this system in several practices and it has proved hugely beneficial for patients and practices.
“This is because patients are getting quicker access to health advice, which in turn means that those who need to see a GP can get an appointment more quickly.
“When a patient completes an online form about their condition, a GP will get in touch with the patient to give advice, offer an appointment if needed, or issue a prescription.”
Because the service is online, it gives patients 24-hour access to the information they need at a time that is convenient to them.
The aim is that all Devon patients will have access to eConsult through their GP practice’s website by the end of this year.
Cathy Francis, NHS England’s Regional Director for Patients and Information, said: “We’ve been following progress in Devon, so it’s very pleasing to see this project reach maturity. It’s exactly the sort of innovation that we need to see around the country, so patients can get quick and easy access to their doctor from home and hard-pressed GPs can make best use of their time.”
Dr McCormick said this will create better health outcomes, because patients are able to get the information they need sooner.
He added: “Patients can of course still have face-to-face consultations with a GP. The online system is simply using today’s technology to give patients added, efficient and safe online access to GPs.
“In the last couple of years, I think what we’ve started to experience is a revolution in how general practice is being delivered across the country. All of these new technologies are coming in to play and they’re changing the traditional model of general practice.”
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