New 5-step guide launched to help primary care providers make more effective move to digital 

  • 85% of patients still book appointments over the phone states NHS GP survey
  • Work needed to help communities switch to on-line services
  • Digital primary care guide launched to help providers be more effective in making the switch

The Eastern Academic Health Science Network (Eastern AHSN), one of 15 AHSNs in England, has produced a lessons learnt and implementation guide with support from the Lea Valley Health Federation in Hertfordshire.

The five-step-guide focuses on the patient engagement element of delivering a digital primary care service. The Lea Valley Health Federation have employed a digital engagement officer (DEO) who has been working closely with the local population to raise awareness of the services available and support education to enable uptake. The DEO has been a key factor in the federation’s digital success across the eight practices and 75,000 patient list.

Patient access to the website has quadrupled over the first year with the locality achieving up to 15,000 visits to the website per month.

Within this year, patients have now made 6885 requests on line. Patients were surveyed to find out what they normally would have done, if they had not used the on-line services. The increase in use of digital equates to:

  • 3,781 phone calls avoided
  • 1,584 visits in person avoided
  • 652 appointments avoided

According to the annual NHS GP patient survey (2017), 85% of patients still normally book their appointments over the phone. Despite drives to promote online access, only 8% say that they book their appointments online, despite a significant increase in the availability of online booking services.

Many GP practices are now offering online transactions, such as appointment booking, repeat prescriptions and virtual routine assessments. This shift to online services will not only improve the quality of care through enhancing patients’ experience of services but will also help practices to realise efficiency benefits such as reduced administrative burden and fewer missed appointments.

“More effective engagement that helps to improve digital literacy in the community is needed in order to encourage the switch to online services, where appropriate. We hope that this new guide will help primary care providers understand different approaches to engaging communities and deliver more efficient and accessible services in a sustainable way.”

Stacie Coburn, Principal Advisor at the Eastern Academic Health Science Network (Eastern AHSN)

The digital primary care guide is available to download via the Eastern AHSN website.

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