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A digital first approach to Primary Care

The UK has just over 63 million internet users, thats 93% of UK citizens able to access services and communicate in a faster more efficient way than ever before. Currently over 300 million appointments take place in general practice every year, the NHS believe some of these appointments could be carried out online.

Digital technology is also transforming how patients and health professionals interact too. As a result, NHS England is supporting primary care to move towards a “digital first approach”, where patients can easily access the advice, support and treatment they need using digital and online resources.

Digital resources such as video consultations and triage, email, web chat and web-form based models can provide a quick, convenient and secure alternative way to visit your GP practice.

​These resources are found through your GP website to provide a streamlined experience for patients, and quickly and easily direct patients to the suitable digital options for managing their health or in-person service. ​

In practical terms, this means patients are able to use online resources to access all primary care services, such as receiving advice, booking and cancelling appointments, having a consultation with a healthcare professional, receiving a referral and obtaining a prescription.

GP practices within the East Cornwall Primary Care Network are increasingly offering more online access to services. One such service is the option to have an online consultation with their GP practice using a resource called e-consult. This service allow patients to contact their GP practice without having to wait on the phone or take time out to come into the practice, and they form an important part of Digital First Primary Care.

Online consultations through the surgery website using e-consult enables patients to ask questions, report symptoms and upload photos. Your practice then looks at the request and responds within a stated timeframe, connecting you to the right person, service or support.

Research has been commissioned to understand the impact of online consultations on general practice. However, evidence to date and case study findings show that where online consultations are implemented as part of a comprehensive primary care service, they enhance the experience of care for patients and support general practice in managing time and workloads, improving both access and sustainability.

With early evidence showing benefits for both patient and GP Surgery the NHS long term plan commits that every patient will have the right to be offered digital-first primary care by 2023-24.

© East Cornwall Primary Care Network 2020

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