by Aman Kundraw

No going back

From a three-week wait to being able to offer on-the-day GP appointments, there’s no going back for Unity Health since implementing eConsult.

Managing partner at Unity Health in York, Lou Johnston, is proud of the way the team at the practice has implemented eConsult in the past 9 months. In this video, she explains why Unity took the radical decision to make electronic consultation the first point of contact for its 23,000 registered patients.

Overwhelmed with patient demand across its three surgeries, which had led to a 2-3 week wait for GP appointments, Lou and her colleagues knew they had to make changes when their annual patient survey in February 2016 revealed 89% were dissatisfied with the service provided by the practice.

“87% of practice contacts are now via eConsults”

Implementing eConsult in September 2016, and channelling all patients through online consultation in the first instance, was a significant change for practice and patients alike, but it has paid off.  87% of practice contacts are now via eConsults, and Unity is looking to improve on this figure.

A normal week sees between 150 and 200 eConsults coming into the practice every day.  These are managed by a nurse triage team that decides on the most appropriate clinical care – whether it’s a telephone call with advice on self-help options, pharmacist advice, an email with useful information, a nurse or GP appointment.

“The new system has already freed up GPs’ time significantly, with only around one in every three eConsults converting to a face-to-face appointment.”

The new system has already freed up GPs’ time significantly, with only around one in every three eConsults converting to a face-to-face appointment.  GPs also find that when they do see a patient, they’re able to make better use of their ten-minute consultation because they already have the details of the patient’s health concern in front of them.

Unity has also drastically reduced its DNA figure, another drain on scarce resources, from more than ten per cent per week to between three and five per cent – further evidence that the new system helps with productivity.

Back in control

Lou sums up: “Last year we had a three-week wait to see a GP. Now we release our appointments in four sets throughout the day, so if you need to see a GP you will be offered an appointment on the day.  You will often have a choice of GP and a choice of surgery too, which was something that we couldn’t offer before.

“We have much happier staff with manageable workloads.  We feel we are back in control of our patient demand and we are absolutely able to meet that demand now.  Patients are dealt with in a timely way and appropriate courses of action are offered to them.  We are not going back to how it used to be!”

Watch the video here.