Online GP consultations must be ‘carefully implemented’ to ensure effectiveness

The University of Bristol has released research suggesting that online GP consultations will only work with careful implementation

According to research by NIHR CLAHRC West and the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol, online GP consultations will require very careful implementation – or they won’t create the hoped-for benefits.

All patients in England will have access to online GP consultations by 2022/23, as per to the 10-year plan. However, will these have the time-saving benefits hoped for?

A new study delved into the effectiveness of online GP consultations by compiling data collected at 36 practices in Bristol, south Gloucestershire and north Somerset, all of which are using eConsult.

The research found that, while patients reacted favourably, staff at the practices haven’t yet seen the efficiency benefits.

Additionally, 70% of online consultations still led to a telephone or face-to-face consultation.

The study also found that online consultations have a lot of potential to actually increase workload if not carefully implemented and marketed.

Dr Jeremy Horwood, of NIHR CLAHRC West and the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol, said: “Online consultations may have value for some patients, such as straightforward medical enquiries, but they cannot replace face-to-face consultations in situations which are more complex.

“There is a central government drive to move to these systems, which is a key part of the NHS 10-year plan. But our research shows they need to be carefully implemented and effectively marketed to yield the benefits that politicians are hoping for.”

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