Devon’s GP practices are turning to technology in the fight against coronavirus by enabling patients to consult their doctor without leaving the house.
More than 90 per cent of Devon’s practices have signed up to online platform eConsult, which allows patients to access services from a smartphone, tablet or computer.
More than 34,000 eConsults were processed by practices in Devon during March, which NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) calls a ‘significant increase’.
The online and video consultations are in addition to the regular practice telephone, and patients who are unable to use online services can still call their practice in the normal way.
Dr John McCormick, Devon GP and chief clinical information officer for NHS Devon CCG, believes the upsurge is an important step in battling the coronavirus and easing pressure on services.
“Of Devon’s 124 practices, 114 now offer eConsult, and another four are in the process of implementing it,” he said.
“This is extremely encouraging, because it shows our GPs are quickly adapting to new technology – including phone and video consultations – to continue providing care during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Not only does eConsult allow patients to consult their GP from the comfort of their own home, it helps protect the public, patients and members of our health service by limiting their exposure to infection.
“Increased eConsult usage is also helping to relieve pressure on services and manage the increasing demand that already existed, pre-pandemic.
“What we find is that the majority of face-to-face GP consultations are used to discuss issues that could be carried out remotely.
“Of course there are still times when it is necessary to see patients to perform a more detailed examination, but this helps us determine when that’s essential.”
Patients seem to be embracing the technology too. The CCG said more than 2,200 video consultations took place in Devon in the space of a week at the start of April – among the highest of any area in the country.
Information that patients submit online is reviewed by a member of the practice team. The practice gets in touch by the end of the next working day to let patients know the next step. This might be a phone consultation, advice on how the patients can treat themselves, a prescription or a face-to-face appointment, if it’s necessary.
eConsult is available through individual practice websites.