How many times have you heard the promise that patients will self care with health apps and websites instead of bothering their GP? And then compared the promise with the daily reality of demand slowly, steadily ratcheting up?
I wrote The Diversion Myth over a year ago and I’m glad to say we can revisit it with our own real data. We’ve never claimed that our askmyGP online access platform would divert demand away from GPs, but we’ve said there may be potential and we’ve been trying very hard to prove it. Every welcome page links directly to the excellent NHS Choices site, and we go further: having entered their symptoms, patients are invited with one click to go straight to the relevant NHS Choices page. Perfectly tailored patient education!
Since adding the tailored links, the results are:
16,710 total patient submissions
4,458 links presented
519 links visited
10 patients decided not to consult.
One of them was me, with a throbbing earache, discovering to my delight that antibiotics were not advised and it should clear up within 3 days. It did.
Friends, this isn’t going to work. I was hoping for perhaps 5% diversion. 2% would have disappointed. 0.06% is so tiny that even with brilliant optimisation multiplying the effect by a factor of 10, it would reach a barely perceptible 0.6%.
What we have shown is that patients are keen to seek help online. Fears of a deluge of trivia are unfounded, you need to beg them to use it, but so long as they get the message from a trusted GP and they get a rapid response, 20% will shift from phone to online. It’s then easier and less frustrating for patients and practice to manage demand. I don’t think that is impressive, compared with 80% online say for travel bookings, but it’s promising and we are working on how to build that to over 50%.
I’ve explored the challenges and the reality for digital primary care in a poster at last week’s EFPC conference:
Interested in your views on this.
PS Our competitors webGP are still claiming 18% of patients self managed an issue for which they “planned” to consult, indeed that “60% of patients were able to resolve their health concern without a visit”, implying they did so themselves. Strangely, we never see any numbers. Does anyone independent out there using webGP have any evidence of overall demand reduction?