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Online consultation platform could improve patient safety

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Digital technology options are being introduced at GP surgeries, Andrea Rusbridge looks at how this may change a patients access and experience of primary health care.

A new way to access GP surgery appointments has been introduced in a UK first by the Lakeside Healthcare partnership, which has surgeries across Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.

Patients in Oundle are using the online consultation platform called Doctrin, which was developed in Sweden. So far it has been given a 90 per cent plus approval rating by patients who access it via mobile or other digital devices.

The bosses at Lakeside say it gives patients more choice over getting in touch, and is easier and more convenient for those who want to use a digital platform, while enabling better phone access for those that can’t use digital technology.

Shoosmiths, which has an office in nearby Northampton, says that if the new system means appointments for both telephone and face to face consultations can be made with ease, and enough detail is taken to inform decisions, it is a positive development. However, the decisions should not be made by the patients and the onus should remain on the GP in deciding whether a face to face or telephone consultation is required.

Andrea Rusbridge, specialist medical negligence solicitor and head of the clinical negligence team at Northampton, says technology which enables patients to get the right treatment and appropriate access to a GP may well improve patient safety which is paramount particularly due to the increased pressures from Covid. 

Andrea says: “It is vitally important that people who do not have the technology and rely on the phone still have a quick response and an appropriate appointment made. 

“The move follows the introduction of a cloud based telephony system with no constraint on the capacity of calls it can handle and a call-back function which means patients don’t have to wait in a queue.

“This was done because previously, earlier in the summer, patients said they were waiting for an hour to get through or were cut off – which raised alarm bells.” 

Andrea adds that telephone appointments, while helpful, should always be complemented by face-to-face consultations when necessary, and not act as a substitute. 

“There are clear dangers of total reliance on telephone consultations as the signs of an illness/disease, which a patient will often not identify, are often only picked up the GP by watching how the patient walks into the consultation room, or how they respond to a clinical examination.”

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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2021

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