Digital Consultations Offered By UK GPs

Docly, a digital consultation tool for GPs, has become the first such service to be registered with the UK’s Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Pharmaphorum reported on the launch of the digital consultation service, which will allow GPs to provide online consultations using a messaging system.

According to the news provider, one GP practice alone has been able to provide an additional 200 consultations since its launch on 7 August using the messaging system.

Min Doktor, a Swedish company, developed Docly. It revealed that patient cases are routinely picked up within an hour, which could help alleviate struggling GP services in the UK where average waiting times for an appointment now stand at 15 days.

The service allows patients time to fully describe their symptoms and means that doctors receive detailed information. Docly allows doctors to provide a prescription if that’s required. One of the main selling points of the service is that neither patients nor doctors have to work to a scheduled appointment.

This means that it saves clinic time and means patients don’t have to take time out of their day to attend an appointment with a GP. According to the news provider, less than one per cent of cases require a video consultation.

GP partner at Willowbrook Surgery in Leicester professor Rishabh Prasad told the Leicester Mercury that introducing Docly at his practice has made a significant difference already. “Docly allows my practice to offer advice to patients within a couple of hours, rather than them waiting days for an appointment,” he said.

Professor Prasad added: “I have always been concerned with the unmet need of my patients and I hope to be able to offer 1,000 appointments a month with the app.”

This could make a significant difference to GP practices up and down the UK if others are able to see similar success to that experienced in Leicester. But the news provider pointed out that while Docly is the first such service to receive CQC registration, it’s not the only GP messaging service available.

LIVI is another provider that has already signed an agreement with surgeries in Birmingham, Shropshire, Northamptonshire and some parts of the south east.

It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock is pushing for more digital health solutions to be introduced across the NHS. Under the five-year GP contract, all practices in England are expected to offer digital consultations by April 2021.

Speaking to Digital Health News earlier this month, Graham Kendall, the director of the Digital Healthcare Council, stressed the importance of GPs adopting more digital solutions to help relieve the pressures they’re facing.

“We need to adopt more fundamental changes working in partnership with digital care providers to ease pressures on GPs, manage demand and resource allocation to free GPs’ time, bring in new capacity and introduce more timely services for patients,” he asserted.

Of course, digital consultations are just one of the ways in which GPs and the NHS as a whole are changing how they work. And digital consultations won’t be suitable for every patient, so a balance needs to be struck.

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