Saving time and meeting 100% of on-the-day demands with Online Consult

Health and social care

Stratford Village Surgery is using Online Consult to manage workload and patient demand more effectively, freeing up more time and providing faster patient care. It’s proved so successful that 50% of practices in their borough are now considering using Online Consult.

The practice was keen to use Online Consult as it gave them a chance to align their way of working with some other local practices that were also using online consultation technology. And, with integration with Patient Access, it also meant patients and practice staff would have access to all the systems they need in one, centralised place.

Since going live in August 2018, the practice has been directing more patients to their online forms and away from calls to reception, reducing telephone queues. Because the forms are readily available via the practice’s website or directly through the Patient Access app, they’re much more accessible for patients. In fact, the practice received 2,500 forms in the first two months alone, as more and more patients prefer using Online Triage to calling reception.

Meeting all on-the-day demands

By using Online Consult, for the first time, the team are able to meet 100% of demands on the day they’re made. They’re also now able to run an appointment system that’s based on patient need, rather than demand. This has cut unnecessary appointments and has ensured that patients are directed to the most appropriate alternative service. As a result, waiting times have been cut from four weeks to one or two days, and the quality of triaging has significantly improved.

“Patients are happy because they don’t have to phone up and wait weeks for an appointment. Instead they can get an immediate response for basic needs and requirements.”

Chris Riley, IT project manager, Newham CCG

The team are able to identify which patients require a face-to-face appointment and which ones can be dealt with by referring them to a pharmacist or other specialist, or by simply sending them out paperwork. On average, only 25% of patients who fill in the forms need a physical appointment with the GP. “This means it’s much easier to provide appointment slots as we’re able to quickly redirect patients who don’t need to be seen in practice,” says Dr Bhupinder Kohli, a GP and medical director at the practice. 

Fewer missed appointments

The new system also led to a 50% reduction in DNA rates in the first month alone. “Patients are only booking appointments when they really need one, so we have fewer people dropping out or not turning up,” says Chris Riley, IT project manager at Newham CCG.

Part of this change can be attributed to how Online Consult gives patients access to self-help articles that advise them on how to manage their own health and symptoms themselves. With the practice’s patients able to better take control of their health in their own homes, they don’t have to take time out of their day to contact or visit the practice either. There are even early indications that this clinical content is helping to reduce urgent and emergency care attendances too, as patients are able to find answers to their queries before arriving at care facilities.

An accessible system that allows patients to detail all their queries

The easy-to-use system has been designed so that it can be quickly used and understood by patients, clinicians and admin staff. It also comes with customisable and pre-built forms that ensure that a range of patient queries are covered. As Dr Kohli told us, “We’ve found the customisable options really useful as they’ve allowed us to create a ‘catch-all’ form for patients who weren’t sure what their symptoms were. This has helped us to make sure all patients are able to provide us with the information we need to give them the best advice and care.”

Dr Kohli also finds that many patients – for instance, men with sexual health concerns – are more willing to share information about their symptoms on the forms than they would in a face-to-face consultation. This extra information is invaluable and, because the forms allow patients to add in plenty of detail about their condition or symptoms, it’s so much easier for clinical staff to quickly and accurately triage and diagnose patients, and direct them to the correct service.  

Making better use of time

With Online Consult, clinicians at Stratford Village Surgery are now able to get through 30 patient queries in the same time that they would previously have taken for only 18 face-to-face consultations. Where consultations would usually take ten minutes, each form can be read and resolved on average in six minutes. Time-consuming tasks have therefore been replaced by ones which can be completed quickly so that staff can make better use of their time and respond quicker to more patient queries.

“Through Online Consult we can deal with more requests and enquiries in the same amount of time which allows us to be more productive and triage more effectively.”

Dr Bhupinder Kohli, GP and medical director, Stratford Village Surgery

Because unnecessary appointments have been reduced and staff are now only seeing patients that need to come into the practice, GPs are finding that their workloads are much more manageable too. It’s meant that they’re now able to get through more admin and better manage staff absences. And if that wasn’t enough, these GPs are finding that they can go home on time and take less work with them when they do – something that’s never been the case before.

A system for the future of general practice

In just the first few months of using Online Consult, the practice has seen a 50% reduction in calls to reception as well as reductions in DNA rates and unnecessary appointments. “We’ve already seen some great benefits to the way we work. As we encourage more and more patients to use Online Consult and get more people used to the system, these figures are bound to improve even further,” says Dr Kohli.

By resolving more patient queries in a shorter amount of time, the introduction of Online Consult has made life easier for patients, clinicians and admin staff alike. With such great things achieved in such a short space of time, the future possibilities created by Online Consult are really exciting.

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