A new online system to help patients get the right care from their GP Surgery – eConsult – has saved nearly 500 appointments at Bridport Medical Centre since being introduced in early November.

eConsult is an online system which enables patients to complete a confidential online form which is then sent to their GP who will respond by 6.30pm the following day to offer advice, referral to an alternative service or an appointment if necessary.

Forms are triaged by practice staff then results are added to a patient’s medical records and a ‘virtual appointment’ is scheduled with their GP where the results are reviewed and a course of action will be decided on; this could be referral for tests, an alternative service or an appointment. Details are then returned to the patient via email or SMS.

Dr Ian Platt said “A significant benefit is to ensure that patients are seen by the correct person in the correct time frame. A well completed e-consult provides us with a significant amount of information. We can then use the information to ensure that the patient receives either an appointment in the appropriate time frame or alternatively a prescription/self-help advice if it appropriate to do so. Using e-consult we can ensure that the limited resource of face to face appointments are used in the most efficient manner.”

Dr Platt continues “A good example of how eConsult works could be a patient who has vague symptoms. They may wait two or three weeks to see me under a routine appointment only to be told that they require blood tests. These may take a week or so to book, then there is a further wait to see me for the results. With eConsult I can recognise that tests are needed, get them booked and follow up the results if there is any concern – this saves considerable time for both the patient but also ensures at follow up all results are available to discuss.”

Practice Manager Eilish Davoren said “We are sensitive to the comments we have received and seen on social media and, whilst some of the feedback has been upsetting for the team who are trying to do their best for our patients, we absolutely recognise that some people may find the move to eConsult daunting or they may not be convinced of the benefits.  We want to reassure people who are not online, or find the process too difficult, that we are still available via the existing phone number and will be more than happy to assist them to complete their online consultation. We aren’t pushing people away – we want to help people be seen more quickly”

Eilish continues “Our Health Champions are available on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday morning and can answer any questions our patients might have and advise how the system can be of benefit. For those patients who need a little bit more support, we now have three iPads installed and our Champions can show patients how to get the best from the software.

The people who are going to see the biggest benefit from this are those who maybe don’t have the time to visit their practice or live in rural locations where travel can sometimes be difficult, including parents of young children and our more elderly patients”.

eConsult can be used by anyone aged over 16 and during the eConsult process if you give any indication that you have urgent symptoms e.g. high pain scores you will be advised to call 999 or attend the local Emergency Department. Please answer the questions as accurately as possible to minimise the risk of inappropriate referral to an urgent care service.