Learning so far

This section provides information about the Patient Online sites which have been testing and sharing ways to improve online services for patients. It provides a summary of learning so far and a selection of case studies and sample materials. An overview of the evidence regarding the benefits of online access is also included.

A number of GP practices are at the forefront of digital improvements, with widespread deployment of online services. They demonstrate a clear commitment to adopting and adapting new technology to benefit patients and their own ways of working within the practice. To bring together this knowledge and enhance learning across the country, the Patient Online programme is working with those sites that wish to share their expertise and learning with others. The GP practices vary in size and type, and are geographically spread across England in both urban and rural areas.

Beacon sites

This year, the Patient Online programme is working with a network of beacon sites. These are practices that are supporting the programme by sharing good practice and providing expert advice on online GP services. Their advice is captured in a series of case studies and videos.

A number of beacon sites are offering a “buddying up” service, sharing their learning and experience with other GP practices. They have a range of experience with different aspects of the Patient Online programme.

For peer support, please e-mail england.patients-online@nhs.net with your request (subject: buddy site). Give us a brief description of the information you are looking for and we will put you in touch with the beacon site that is likely to be able to provide you with the support you are looking for.

Accelerator sites

Working with Implementation leads last year, these GP practices have shared their experiences in implementing the changed ways of working. Please see the selected case studies.

A number of these accelerator sites have also engaged their patient participation groups (PPGs) to gather their views on online services and identify their support requirements. This is reflected in the patient promotion materials provided in the support and resources section.

Summary of learning so far from the accelerator sites

Learning is ongoing, but the following has emerged so far:

  • Practices that promote and enable record access, as well as appointment booking and repeat prescription ordering  online, have found a very positive response from many patients, particularly those with long term conditions who are in frequent contact with the practice.
  • This service should be available for any patients who wish it, but not required to be used by every patient as some patients don’t want to use electronic systems. Some patients are concerned that those who do not have Smartphones, PCs, laptops, tablets and internet connection will miss out on booking appointments.
  • GP practices who offer a higher proportion of their appointments online find the systems work more easily and effectively.
  • Online services are an extra option for those who wish to use them and will not replace other ways of contacting your practice, such as by phone or in person. By freeing up phone lines and reducing the need for people to visit in person, it is hoped that patients who do not have a computer will find it easier to contact their practice.
  • Patients have said they found access to their summary information (e.g. allergies) helpful when completing the forms provided by the health service.
  • When the development of online patient access is linked to another GP system function, such as Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), the process becomes more streamlined and hugely benefits the patients.
  • Most GP practices find shared examples from other GP practices their most useful resources.
  • The GP practices that use a wide range of promotional tools, including waiting room TV, the website, prescription notes, newsletters, and business cards for patients, are successfully increasing the number of patients who sign up for online services.
  • Some GP system suppliers’ software is not available or does not work appropriately, which has slowed progress for those practices.