Technological innovation has never been as prominent in general practice as it is today. From digital triaging through to video consultations, GPs now have access to a range of platforms to help them care for patients that were not available even a few years ago.
As well as this, circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic have made practices look at how they operate and make changes to diversify their care. Since March 2020 we at eConsult have seen a huge surge in demand for our platform from practices as they looked to find a way to treat patients without putting them at risk of catching or spreading the disease. Today, over 45% of NHS GP practices in the UK use eConsult. We want to explore how collaboration with other providers can produce better outcomes for NHS everyone.
Why we need to demystify healthtech technology
With demand for digital healthcare technology on the rise and a plethora of different solutions available, it can be hard for practices to know what platforms they need and what will work best for them. Different providers offer different products and practices may need multiple platforms to allow them to provide the best care to patients. For example, if a commissioner or a practice wants to procure a digital consultation platform and a tool that will allow them to consult patients via video, they may need to secure these from two different providers. This can be a long process that takes time. As well as this, these different platforms may require users, be they GPs, nurses, receptionists or practice managers, to use different apps and interfaces to access them as the tools aren’t compatible. This again takes up time and complicates a process that should be straightforward.
At eConsult, we want to make the healthcare journey streamlined and easy so that clinicians can focus on what they do best, caring for their patients. To do this, we believe that we shouldn’t be trying to work against fellow healthcare innovators but looking for ways to work with them. We don’t want to create work for the health service, we want to reduce it, and that means making solutions as compatible as possible. This reduces complexity and confusion for practices and patients so they can give and receive care quickly and effectively.
Collaborate to innovate: The eConsult toolbar
That’s why we (eConsult) have teamed up with two other leading health tech providers, Q doctor and Cognitant Group, to create a new toolbar for practices. This platform brings together eConsult’s online triage service, the Q health video consultation service by Q doctor, and Cognitant Group’s verified health information service, ‘Healthinote’. Through working together to integrate our services, doctors are now able to get information from patients without a face-to-face appointment or call, conduct video calls and send patients usable self-help instructions and links, all through an easy-to-use toolbar. This gives GPs the ability to treat patients wherever they are, whether that’s from their surgery or if they are working from home.
Patients, as well as practices, also benefit from collaboration between companies. For example, with this new toolbar patients can receive responses from the practice through an integrated patient messaging service, allowing detailed information to be shared. This service facilitates a faster and more informed direct-to-patient response, reducing the need for patients to follow-up with the practice, saving them time as they don’t need repeated contact.
The potential that technology has to help general practice is massive and we are starting to see this being realised. However, if practices are to further harness innovation, solution providers shouldn’t be looking to outdo each other, but working together to ensure their platforms are providing the best service for GPs, primary care and patients. The collaboration between eConsult, Q doctor and Cognitant is a great example of how working together can produce greater results for patients and clinicians. Through this, we hope to continue working together to create a better healthcare ecosystem for all.
Dr Murray Ellender, GP and CEO, eConsult
Murray is an NHS GP and co-founder of eConsult. He has been a doctor for 21 years and CEO of eConsult since 2015, while continuing to practice as a GP in South East London.