GP practice triples online patients in one week

A GP practice in Cumbria more than tripled the number of patients registered to use its online services in just one week with an extensive information drive.

The percentage of ‘digital’ patients signed up to the Duke Street Surgery at Barrow-in-Furness’ EMIS Health Patient Access system – which allows them to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and access their GP record – went up from 3.5% to 11% in just one week, thanks to an all-out campaign with the practice’s 9,500 patients. And after 11 weeks of campaigning it has now reached 21%.

The news comes as record numbers of patients log on to use Patient Access across England. In 2016, 5.1m people registered to use it. There were 31.4m log-ons to the service. Patients booked 6.5m appointments, requested 10.3m prescriptions and viewed their medical record 1m times.

Practice manager Laura Hodgkinson puts the Cumbrian success down to a massive effort by all members of staff to make online services part of ‘business as usual’, and using every opportunity to ask patients to sign up. She said: “We came back from the Christmas break and thought there was no way we could get up to 10% by the end of March. But then we just went for it!”

The practice’s intensive campaign involved:

  • texting 3,000 patients, with a 10%+ response rate in the first day
  • training and briefing ALL staff (including GPs) to ensure they were confident in asking patients to  register for online services and answering their questions
  • asking every patient at reception to sign up, and offering them support to do so
  • putting promotional materials up all round the reception area and waiting room
  • signposting the service on the practice website and social media.

Laura added: “I’d advise other practices who may still be trying to meet the target to make sure all your staff are trained on how to use online services, so that they feel confident in helping patients who may be struggling. And set up a computer in a quiet area of the surgery so that you can help patients sign up there and then.”

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Senior partner Dr Ian Wear said: “We are really proud of the success of our staff in rolling out this service for our patients, it reflects a wider dedication they have in ensuring all aspects of our practice run smoothly.”

Dr Masood Nazir, Clinical Lead for the NHS England Patient Online programme said: “It’s great to see that practices are embracing GP online services and feel the benefits for both patients and staff. NHS England is supporting practices in offering these services by providing necessary guidance, promotional materials and sharing success stories such as Duke Street Surgery with other practices across the country.”

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