We have written multiple blogs on how GP surgeries have begun competing with digital-first services like Babylon’s GP at Hand, but do they really pose a threat?
A change in the way these services are configured may make them even more threatening as Babylon will now be required to set up local practices and hold separate contracts with commissioners in the regions they operate.
This contrasts with the fulsome list they have been supporting in Hammersmith that offered GP at Hand services to patients across the country. This means their single list under Hammersmith & Fulham CCG will turn into 17 lists: one alternative provider medical services (AMPS) contract in Hammersmith & Fulham and one in the 16 other CCGs where more than 1,000 patients are registered.
NHS England would 'normally expect premises to be established under each new APMS contract'. They also want to encourage digital-first surgeries to set up in deprived areas or places where there is a lack of doctors.
Could this make GP at Hand surgeries more attractive if there is a local, physical presence?
If so, then traditional GP surgeries could lose funding as patients migrate to digital-first surgeries that offer video or telephone appointments in the first instance.
How do they compete? I believe they need to be more available to their patients by answering incoming calls promptly and offering flexible appointments, including telephone consultations.
Older telephone systems that use ISDN voice services cannot cope with the volume of calls at the busiest times of the day as there simply isn’t enough lines to deal with the number of concurrent calls. This means patients hear the engaged tone, are placed in a lengthy queue or the phone just keeps ringing out.
If they are already holding telephone consultations, they will be paying high call costs, especially if they are ringing patients’ mobile devices.
GP surgeries need to be more agile and efficient to ensure they score well in patient surveys and to keep competition at bay. They also need the flexibility to team up with other federation or primary care network (PCN) surgeries when required.
We have been using our general practice cloud-hosted telephony solution to help traditional GP surgeries be more resilient, cost-conscious and competitive in these modern times.
Time will tell whether digital-first surgeries will become a permanent fixture on the primary care landscape, but with their growing patient numbers, surgeries cannot afford to be complacent and risk losing funding.
Please contact me if you want to find out more about our telephone systems and we can help your surgery or PCN.