Digital-first approach rolled out across Bury GP practices

Digital video doctor appointment

Patients in Bury are now able to make online visits to their GP and receive advice and support virtually as more practices roll out new technology during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

The new digital technology allows patients to request help from their GP practice by completing a short form online, which will then be assessed by a practice clinician to offer the right care, including a telephone or video appointment, or referral to other services or self-care.

Tower Family Healthcare, an NHS GP practice with four sites in Bury, have seen “transformational” changes to the way they operate appointments and services since they rolled out online consultation and workflow system askmyGP in March.

“Before we introduced our online consultations we were experiencing the same issues as most GP practices across the country with capacity and workflow, with patients experiencing telephone queues and delays for routine appointments” said Dr Simon de Vial, GP and Chief Executive of Tower Family Healthcare.

The team at Tower Family Healthcare set about researching online consultation platforms and how it would impact workflow before selecting askmyGP.

A launch date of April was then set to go live with the new digital-first solution, however the impact of COVID-19 and the urgent need for remote appointments accelerated their implementation plans from five weeks down to just 10 days.

Now more than 1,500 patients have used the system and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Dr de Vial added: “This has been the most transformational change to the way we work that I’ve seen in 28 years as a GP.

“Patients are able to send a request online or by phone and receive the right care much quicker than they would have done previously.

“It saves patients time and hassle of waiting in telephone queues and it enables us to treat patients quicker as they have already briefed us on their symptoms online, meaning we can provide more time for patients with complex conditions.

“It is also having benefits for patients who are not online as our telephone lines have been opened up, allowing them to get through to the surgery quicker and easier than before.”

Emails also allow the practice to signpost patients to online resources in a way that they couldn’t so during face-to-face consultations while video consultations mean GPs can still see and hear their patients.

Using a digital-first approach has also supported the GP practices to plan for the capacity better.

Paul Massey, Executive Partner of Business Development and Finance at Tower Family Healthcare, said: “We have exceptional clinicians and staff, so we always felt that we could offer a better service to our patients.

“The new system has allowed us to do that using data and the ability to predict the demands on our services and adjust our capacity to support that.

“We now know the days and times when we are likely to be busy, when the number of requests will peak and when it will begin to reduce, and we can accommodate for that.

“It has also been vital to ensure that we worked with our GPs and staff to ensure they were supportive of the new workflow and I’m pleased to say some of those who were more cautious about the change have become the biggest advocates after seeing the benefits first-hand in their own work.”

Both Dr de Vial and Mr Massey have been supporting NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group with the rollout of digital technology in other practices.

Currently 77% of people in Bury are now able to access online consultations, with more practices set to rollout the technology to support their patients soon.

Dr Sanjay Kotegaonkar, Clinical Lead for Information Management and Technology at NHS Bury CCG, said: “The COVID-19 outbreak has highlighted the need for more digital solutions to allow our patients to access care and support from general practice. The feedback we have received from patients, GPs and practice staff has been overwhelmingly positive and has already had vast benefits for patient care and the healthcare system. We are committed to supporting practices to implement this new technology and ensure that all patients in Bury are cared for during COVID-19 and beyond.”

NHS Bury CCG are being supported during the rollout through a GM digital primary care support package using the skills, expertise and resources from Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, Health Innovation Manchester and GM Shared Services. Find out more about the Digital Primary Care work here

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