UPTAKE of online GP services in England is low despite efforts to promote their use.
Just six per cent of patients book appointments online while 10 per cent order prescriptions online, according to an analysis by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
This is despite recent government efforts to encourage digital access. With effect from March 2015, all GP practices in England are required to offer online appointment bookings, repeat prescriptions and access to summary information held in patients’ records.
Figures highlighted by the CAB suggest there is a considerable gap between patient preferences and patient behaviour. While more than a third (34 per cent) of patients said they would like to book appointments online, the vast majority (86 per cent) said they do not use any online services.
The CAB analysed results of the GP Patient Survey from the past five years, with a particular focus on the most recent data published in July 2015. The survey sees questionnaires sent to 2.6 million people across England, around 33 per cent of whom respond.
The CAB’s report blames low uptake on poor patient awareness, with less than a third (27 per cent) aware of online booking services. Technical glitches were also cited as a potential barrier, as was the requirement by some practices to attend in person to collect online login information.
The report encourages practices to raise awareness of digital tools, particularly as research suggests those most likely to use them (patients aged 18-34) were least likely to be aware of them. One GP practice improved uptake by offering a smartphone app which is currently used by more than 700 patients to book appointments, send secure messages to clinicians and create appointment reminders.
Increasing uptake of online services can also boost patient satisfaction, the report found. Those who used such services were more likely to rate their overall GP surgery experience as “very good”. For example, half of patients who ordered online repeat prescriptions rated their surgery as “very good”, compared to only 41 per cent of patients who said they could not access online services.
Understanding patient access to online GP services – Citizens Advice