Commissioning

09.04.18

RCGP guidance advises patients and GPs on online consultation services

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has published a list of questions which patients, doctors and commissioners should consider before using or utilising online GP services.

The questions for patients include: will they see me whatever my health problem, or exclude me if I have complex health needs? Will they have access to my full medical record, so that they know my medical history? What happens if I need to see a GP in person – how far will I need to travel?

In the wake of a growing number of online consultation services, most commonly via smartphone apps, patients should ask themselves these questions if they are considering using one.

Patients should also ensure that the CQC has inspected the service, look into how they intend to keep their personal information safe and check whether a fee is required.

Professor Martin Marshall, vice chair of the RCGP and author of the guidance, said: “Technology is being used more and more in every aspect of our lives and general practice has always been a trailblazer in this respect.

“Online consultations can seem like a very convenient option for accessing general practice services, particularly for young, generally healthy people who want to see a GP quickly.

“But the ways some online services are provided raise patient safety concerns – people need to be aware of these, and properly understand what they are signing up to. Often, for example, patients will have consultations with unfamiliar GPs who don't have access to their full patient records.”

The new document also includes advice for commissioning bodies, asking them whether the online system can address current demand or if it will generate new demand, and whether the latter will require more resources to meet it.

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