Take appointments. Their standard online method of booking appointments (Patient Access) used to be good, but is now so restricted that I seldom use it. I know it will offer me an appointment in 2 weeks time, if at all. Imagine, trying to book an appointment online and simply being told nothing is available, then calling their reception and being given an appointment for next week!
On quite a few occasions, I have seen my GP, and they have said “Make an appointment to come back next week”, only to be told by reception that no appointments are available next week, and “the system” hasn’t allocated any appointments for the following week. Blaming “the system” is something I think people should be ashamed of. These days, when a doctor tells me to “come back next week”, I ask them if they themselves could give me an appointment, and they always can, on the spot.
So that leads me to eConsult. My practice introduced this because of the Lockdown, and I am hoping that they keep it afterwards.
You go online, give some details about yourself, and what your query is. You are given 500 words to describe your problem, then are taken through a couple of pages of simple questions with check boxes. You are asked to confirm what medications you are on, and any allergies. You are also allowed to upload pictures, which has been invaluable for me dealing with a case of cellulitis.
After you have completed the request, you are emailed a copy of your answers, and the request is passed on to your practise. Usually you are told that you will be called the next day, by 6:30pm.
In practice, I have only just spoken to a GP for the first time, after 3 consults. This is a good thing.
The first eConsult was when my cellulitis appeared. I described it, took photos and was told to expect a call the next day. Within hours, I received an email saying the GP had seen my pictures and had sent a prescription for antibiotics to my preferred pharmacy. Who had the prescription ready the next day.
The second eConsult was a followup. I had finished the antibiotics, but thought the leg was still not good. I sent more pictures, was told the usual about a phone call “tomorrow”, but within an hour, I received an email from my GP, with him agreeing I needed a further course of antibiotics. Which my pharmacy had ready within 3 hours.
Today I did another followup. I think my leg is much better, but wanted someone to look at it, so even more pictures. I was told to expect a phone call tomorrow, but one of the practice GPs was on the line about 2 hours later. He asked some further questions, said he agreed it looked better, went over some after-care instructions, and told me to get in contact immediately if it flared up again.
I mean, who could complain about that? I am getting a much better and immediate level of care, albeit remotely, than I did before the pandemic, and no waiting room germs to worry about. I reckon the doctors are probably getting through more patients this way too!
I am aware that this is good for those of us not technically challenged, but not everyone has easy access to the internet, or the knowledge to use it.
But if something like eConsult can help doctors get through our cases quicker, then that leave them more time for those who don’t have the same opportunity to use it.
So what is important is to make such things available, while ensuring that “normal” access to healthcare is not compromised.