Primary and urgent care survey - digital technology and access to information

One of the areas of substantial development is the potential for technology to improve access to advice and treatment. Increasingly people are using, and expecting to use, digital forms of accessing information and communication.

We asked how people would feel about communicating with their GP practices by email, texting and using video interaction.

This is an area that also prompted over 100 comments. People wanted to see improvements in the way patients notes were shared between different health professionals for example GPs and specialists in the hospital.

Have my medical records available to NHS doctors whether at a GP surgery or in A&E or other hospital ward. In this day and age it is ridiculous that the patient has to be asked over and over to recount his/her medical history. Delays in treatment due to doctors having to wait for records to be relayed by post is unacceptable and highly inefficient.

Communicate better between NHS silos - why do doctors still have to write letters for referrals? Why does it take so long for results to get back to consultants and GPs? Why are my records and notes not available everywhere, including to me?

I would like a computer system where you can access your personal records yourself, rather than just letting the doctors see this information. This will help you to look after your own health as well.

Table 10: Acceptability of email, text, video and group appointments

How acceptable are the following ways of consulting with your GP about routine health care needs

CCG area, all responses by post online and phone. (%) not acceptable at all only as a last resort moderately acceptable acceptable ideal sum of moderately acceptable, acceptable and idea
Emailing a GP in your practice (n=5,729) 26 12 16 36 11 63
Texting a GP in your practice (n=5,682) 40 19 16 21 5 42
Using video interaction service (n=5,622) 47 15 13 20 5 38
Having a group appointment with a specialist and other patients with a similar condition (n=5,762) 48 18 16 15 2 33

Figure 7: Acceptability of alternative contact with GP (moderately, acceptable and ideal%)

Table 10 and Figure 7 show how people felt about emailing, texting a GP, and using video interaction.

Overall 63% thought it was acceptable in some form to email, 42% were OK about text communication.  The response to video interaction services was much more mixed. Within this there are some very strong views with 26% saying email, 42% texting and nearly half finding video services not at all acceptable.

I would like to see more information on the NHS website and to be able to book online appointments for my local surgery. I think video phone for the paramedics so they can show the extent of the injury and distress of the patient.

I would definitely like to email my GP.  Some things do not need face to face discussion and currently a lot of time is wasted on non-urgent questions that could be answered at a time convenient to the Doctor so neither of us need waste appointment or phone time. I care for my mother in law and there are decisions that need to be made frequently but non urgently about her care and medication. An email dialogue would help with this

I think an email information hub would be a comfort. Telephones mean queues and frustration. Necessarily brief emails would prompt early help, I would know the message had been delivered and could expect a response in a reasonable interval either by phone, email or a practitioner's voice.

Provide access for deaf patients to contact medical services such as email.

Personally I would find ability to email my GP the most useful improvement to the service.

Why can't they send results by email or something quicker than the post?

Why in this day and age do they still send letters? Firstly they take too long to get there and you can find you have either missed your appointment or it's the next day and you can't make it or something like that. Surely texting or emailing would be better. They can text you to remind you so why not to give you the appointment in the first place.

Provide a simple on-line question/email session to enable me to input my symptoms to a GP. It would then be OK for a nurse/GP to review that and separately contact me (via phone or email) to recommend a course of action.

Email access to GP surgery. Currently no way to email them - crazy! Why is there not a facility to email my GP surgery? Would save them time on phone.

Looking further into these responses, it is interesting to explore how different groups feel about this.

Unsurprisingly, a higher proportion of those people who answered our survey online showed an interest with using any of these digital methods – indicating that they are already familiar and happy with online services. Higher proportions of the younger age groups were interested in email, text and video services.

Higher proportions of parents or carers of children were in favour of email, text or video option. A smaller proportion of people with physical disabilities were interested in email, text or video interaction than those without disabilities. A higher proportion of people from a ‘White Other’ background (49%) were more interested in video than the rest of the population (36%).

better access to experienced clinicians on phone or Skype to give top-quality advice whether to seek treatment or best treatment at home - so important when caring for children as unnecessary visit to GP or A&E are so disruptive .

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