New online system helps Scottish GPs manage coronavirus outbreak

GPs can triage patients via portal before they arrive at the practice
Online Consult enabled us to create our own dedicated coronavirus form, which patients have found reassuring”. Senior GP partner Dr James Stewart, St Luke’s Medical Practice at Carluke

A new online system that enables Scottish GPs to triage patients before they arrive at the practice is helping doctors manage potential coronavirus cases, while ensuring face-to-face appointments are managed safely and speedily.

Online Consult, from EMIS Health, is being made available free of charge to all GPs in Scotland for 12 weeks, as part of the company’s attempts to assist medical workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

It has enabled St Luke’s Medical Practice at Carluke in Lanarkshire to direct patients to a specially tailored online form on coronavirus, so that they can get vital advice from the practice without leaving home.

It is part of a system to help GP practices manage their workload while keeping communication lines open 24/7 for patients.

The form allows the practice to filter patients with coronavirus symptoms and direct patients to national guidelines and helplines.

It also helps patients with other issues not related to coronavirus who need help, but do not want to go to their practice because they are concerned about infection or do not want to take up an appointment.

Senior GP partner Dr James Stewart said: “Online Consult enabled us to create our own dedicated coronavirus form, which patients have found reassuring, and it is very useful for us in the current climate.”

Before rolling out the system, St Luke’s Medical Practice in Carluke offered an open access clinic every morning to the 11,300 patients on its list. It meant that patients had to get there before 9.30am – but they would wait up to two hours in a queue to be seen. Now, they go online to fill in a form, which is triaged by a GP. If necessary, they are offered a same-day appointment.

The easy-to-use system comes with customisable and pre-built forms that ensure GP practices can cover a range of patient queries.

It is also proving particularly useful for nervous or anxious patients, who are able to answer questions online and in detail rather than in a face-to-face consultation.

Patients, who can access the forms through the practice’s website or Patient Access, are able to post questions online 24/7, and the surgery responds during working hours.