Recent research conducted by Pharmapartners has shown that a majority (55%) of questioned patients has no clue about the online services offered by their general practitioner. Only 7% stated that they have made new appointments online and only 3% reported having participated in an e-consultation. The numbers are even lower than the ones from 2016’s eHealth Monitor, though the conclusion is the same: GPs need to raise awareness about their digital services.
Plenty of possibilities
The eHealth Monitor has also shown that most GPs do offer online services: 85% said that they offer at least one way in which patients can get in touch online. The options to make appointments online have also increased: in 2013 only 14% of GPs offered this option, while in 2016 this has increased to 37%. Developments in telecare are slower – only 2% of the GPs stated to offer this.
Such functionalities are also supported by our messenger – besides the ‘standard’ messaging and video call functionalities for conducting e-consultations, Alterdesk offers the option to add a chat button to a healthcare provider’s website. Using this, the patient can contact the (in this case) general practice to make an appointment or ask a quick question.
This will look like this:
The needs of the patient
It is not as if the patient does not want their GP to offer digital services. At least 43% of those asked (mostly the younger segment) said that they would like to make an appointment online, but that their GP did not offer this service or that it is unclear whether it is an option. It is this lack of clarity that will need to be bridged.
The needs of the GP
It is also in the GPs own best interest that the digital services offered by the practice are used to their best advantage. It is often mentioned that GPs have to deal with an immensely heavy workload, which could be improved by the right digital practices.
Also, 58% of the GPs mentioned that they have experienced positive effects from digital contact with patients. The amount of telephone calls the assistants need to deal with decreased and the accessibility and efficiency of the general practice was improved.
Inform and motivate
It seems that it is necessary for the team of the general practice to inform their patients about the possibilities and how this could benefit them. They could do this by, for example, the following means:
- Face to face during a consultation (“Many patients trust their GP: if the GP points out the online possibilities, they will take it seriously”, says D. van Oosten from Pharmapartners.
- On the website (make sure the interface is user-friendly and accessible).
- By means of an online newsletter (for those patients who do not visit the website regularly).
- By telephone (to inform the patient that future appointments could also be made online).
- By means of printed leaflets handed out at the practice.
The more different media are deployed, the bigger the chance that patients will be reached and the services provided are used to their best advantage. Ultimately, everyone benefits if the GP and the assistants are less busy (and patients can get help more quickly) and the practices become more accessible.