GP online services: the key benefits

The evidence for the benefits of online interactions between patients and their general practices continues to grow.

Sources for this include published articles, reports and the evidence review that underpinned the Department of Health’s information strategy, The Power of Information, published in May 2012. Further evidence has been gathered from across the country, including from the Patient Online accelerator sites. The key benefits identified to date are summarised below:

  • Improved access to care services: Online access helps to improve access to care services, making them more convenient, with streamlined transfers between different points of care. In turn, this contributes to improvements in levels of patient satisfaction and more efficient delivery of services, supporting better use of clinical time.
  • Expanded health knowledge for patients: Better information can empower patients and carers, leading to increased health knowledge and health literacy. In turn, this can improve levels of patient satisfaction and  wellbeing. Accessing online records means that patients can review up-to-date and relevant information pre- or post-consultation (including out of hours). This increases meaningful interaction and more shared decision-making between patients and their health professionals and encourages patient ownership of their own health and care.
  • Increased information sharing: Online services, information sharing and transactions support increased patient safety, including fewer mistakes, duplications, complaints and erroneous drug doses.
  • Reduced administrative workload for practice staff: The use of online services can support improved business processes, helping to reduce the administrative workload of practice staff. Time released by such efficiencies will be available to support increased productivity and improvements to other aspects of care services, such as better quality reception services and a better experience for patients, particularly those who still prefer to or need to use the phone.
  • Increased patient satisfaction: Online appointment booking can improve and speed up access to clinical expertise, leading to higher levels of patient satisfaction and enhanced health and wellbeing.
  • Improved communication between patients and practices: Online booking services can improve communication between patients and their practices, leading to higher levels of convenience and patient satisfaction.
  • Increased operational efficiencies for practices: An increase in the number of patients booking, cancelling and amending appointments online can reduce phone calls to practices. Benefits for patients and staff include increased patient satisfaction and greater operational efficiencies for the practice.
  • Reduction of DNAs for practices: The use of online booking services can decrease waiting times for appointments by reducing the number of people who do not turn up for their appointment.
  • Reduced travel for patients: Increased use of online repeat prescription services can lead to reduced travel time for patients, more convenience and higher levels of patient satisfaction. Additionally, it can result in a decrease in the quantity of drugs required to be held in stock, reducing cost outlay for pharmacies.
  • Increased ability of patients to make more informed decisions: Patients’ satisfaction and wellbeing is increased by their ability to make more informed decisions about their health and care, facilitated by access to personal health records.