GP surgery pilots online consultations

Stonehaven Medical Group has just started the online consultations
Stonehaven Medical Group has just started the online consultations

A local medical group is taking part in a pilot project for online consultations.

The Scottish Government wants to increase the number of GP surgeries offering digital services to patients.

Stonehaven Medical Group is involved in the initiative which is looking at ways of improving GP practices for the public and for surgeries.

The pilot is aimed at enhancing access for patients through the use of new technology and assessing how it can make practices more sustainable for the future.

Initial Scottish Government funding was provided for a number of surgeries across the country and the Stonehaven centre is participating in the latest phase of the project.

Kris McLaughlin, GP partner at the Stonehaven group, said: “They wanted to look at it from both sides of the coin.

“Is the new programme good for patients and is it good for GP practices, so is it a win, win?”

The programme was devised by GPs, supported by IT and business experts.

Patients work their way through various online questions and submit the consultation to the practice, where the system is monitored several times a day.

It is filed in the patient’s notes and the responsibility for dealing with it is then passed to a GP.

The practice guarantees to get a response by the end of the next working day.

Dr McLaughlin explained: “It means that if a patient requires an appointment, you’ve got a lot more information already, so you can spend your 10 minutes much more effectively.”

The system has been designed with safety as its first priority with “red flag” warnings.

If patients answer a question which puts them into a higher risk category, they are not allowed to progress with the questionnaire and are advised to seek urgent medical advice.

The project has been supported by the Stonehaven surgery patients’ participation group.

Group member Fiona Troup said: “I must admit I felt it was a very robust system.

“I think it probably will help to take the pressure off the GPs and will help a lot of people who have difficulty getting appointments.”

Dr McLaughlin added: “Our experience so far is that it’s not going to reduce the workload for GPs, it’s hopefully going to redistribute the workload to the right people so that GPs can focus on those who need it the most.”