Medical apps are currently viewed as a London-only phenomenon, but organisations like Babylon and their GP at Hand app is gaining momentum with plans to expand into Southampton and Leeds.
GP surgeries need to take notice as new app-led practices like these are luring patients away from traditional primary care services, which means their funding will be cut. NHS patients cannot register for both types of services; the fee goes to just one primary care provider.
This makes uncomfortable reading. GP surgeries have enough to cope without keeping an eye on the competition, but practice managers and partners cannot afford to be complacent.
How do they compete? It’s all about accessibility.
Patients use these apps because they are convenient. They can use them from their beds or sofas, from work; in fact, from anywhere they have an internet connection and access to a PC or mobile device. They simply sign up for a video consultation and receive an electronic prescription or even have their medication delivered.
Apps suit both busy people and poorly people in equal measure, although it seems it is the healthier patients that prefer using these services. They do not want to sit in a waiting room, usually at a time that’s inconvenient, until the doctor is ready to see them.
GPs are already using telephone appointments to alleviate the necessity to visit the surgery and others are extending their hours, sometimes with the help of out-of-hours services, so workers can see their doctor at a more convenient time. However, both these options are dependent on patients being able to make an appointment in the first place.
There are still surgeries that do not have enough lines to be able to handle multiple concurrent calls at the busiest time of the day. A large number do not have a queuing system or automated attendant that helps them route calls appropriately. Some surgeries have joined forces with others but are using separate telephone systems which means they cannot work as one team and use all staff to answer calls at peak times. And others have not linked their telephone systems with their CRM to automatically view patient details as the call in, so they can speed up their conversations.
GP surgeries that have moved with the times and are using the enhanced functionality available within modern telephone systems, have seen their complaints drop, which should mean their patients will be more likely to remain with their current doctor.
Others are at risk of being left behind amid increased complaints and lost patients.
And it’s not just Babylon GP surgeries need to be wary of. LIVI, Now GP, Qured and Push Doctor apps are all knocking on the door too.
While practice managers and partners may realise the threat from apps is real and there is innovative technology available that could help them become more accessible, they may not have the time or expertise to investigate it further.
I have worked with GP surgeries for 20 years and have seen the changes in primary care technology at first hand. In that time, I have explained the telephony features we can offer in plain English to hundreds of practice managers, keeping the backdrop of the NHS primary care landscape very much in mind.
It is not my mission to scare practice managers and GP partners but to help them become more innovative, so they can provide better access for patients. If you think you may benefit from my help, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or on my details below.