Dr Chris Mimnagh: GPs need to embrace web-based consultations

This week I was lucky enough to attend the conference of a national user group of a major GP clinical system supplier. Lots of enthusiasm, lots of change in the air.

What really stood out was the shift to an online front door in general practice.

There were multiple providers partnered with the system supplier all offering ways to capture patient access requests.

I’m a big fan of online services, an early adopter in many respects. I also like to use each system to the full, so after getting dirty with each of the several systems on display here’s my take.

First, not all systems are created equally. In fact, 'access systems' range from essentially free text capture, through structured protocols to artificial intelligence. Although many of the providers will tell you their system 'all you need', in fact most are partial solutions and will suit the needs of some patients some of the time.

Secondly, be prepared to accept that ease of access changes the threshold for access. This is true with physical access as shown with walk-in centres, but equally true of online systems. I have seen questions in online systems that have never been asked in a face-to-face consult.

Thirdly, be prepared to change. Any new system will require change in current working practices, thinking you won’t need to alter your personal work habits is flawed, if you carry on unchanged, then just quit now, you have failed in optimising the tech and maximising the benefits.

Finally, don’t think you have an option in this. Most current practice models are old, frequently based on outdated principles, phone based and struggling with a 24/7 society. These web or app-based consults are the essential future tool, embrace them now.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool and head of clinical innovation liaison and deployment at The Innovation Agency, the academic health science network for the north-west coast.

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