Building trust and understanding of digital health services amongst healthcare professionals

Dr Shabina Siddiqi and Dr Anup Jethwa, General Practitioners (GP) at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, are the driving force behind a series of events, designed to educate GPs on digital health services, which they believe can ultimately reduce the pressure on frontline healthcare providers.

Like consumers, many GPs are unaware of the value of digital health services or don’t understand how they operate. With the unknown can come fear and avoidance which is something we need to tackle. GPs need to continually learn and stay on top of the latest developments and health trends. That’s where we have an opportunity to help.

By hosting a series of GP Education Events, we want to build trust and understanding in digital healthcare. Our vision is to ultimately help reduce the pressure on GPs by giving patients the ability to better manage their health online.

The service we provide is safe, discreet, easily accessible and even personalised – it’s important GPs recognise this. We’ve worked hard to make the patient journey at Online Doctor as convenient and simple as possible. As part of their private, online consultation, patients are asked a series of questions relating to their condition. The answers they provide determines the treatment and advice they receive. Throughout the patient’s consultation the system works out the best course of action. It processes the responses using the latest, most relevant medical guidance and then provides next steps for the patient. This may mean that they receive a prescription, or they could be referred for additional services and consultations.

Take sexual health for example. The number of sexually transmitted infections is on the rise in the UK and many patients are still going to GPs and sexual health clinics for help. This adds to waiting times as well as the cost of running the clinics. When patients go online, they can access the same service, albeit virtually, in the comfort and convenience of a location they prefer. If, following the consultation, it is deemed appropriate for the patient to receive treatment, they will be referred to their local LloydsPharmacy to collect any medication. Here they can speak to a pharmacist about their condition and get any extra advice or support they need. As well as being more convenient for the patient, it also reduces the number of people wanting or needing a face-to-face appointment with a GP, freeing up their time to focus on more complex healthcare needs.

GPs from around the country have attended our events, which have covered a range of topics, including: contraception, paediatrics, cardiology and women’s health. The attendees have ranged from primary care network directors, partners, salaried, locum and portfolio GPs’. The next event takes place on Saturday 23rd November at the Royal College of Physicians and will also welcome pharmacists. In partnership with the charity Prostate Cancer UK, the next session will address men’s health.

So far, 100% of attendees, not previously using online services, said they would consider referring to the service. They also commented that they felt more informed, reassured and confident in the emerging evidence around digital health services after attending the events.

There is a big drive from Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make healthcare even more available digitally. Easily accessible care for patients will help to ease the burden on frontline services like hospitals and GPs. The key to doing this effectively is by educating both consumers and healthcare professionals alike.