For young people, who may be making their first steps in taking charge of their health and wellbeing, reaching out to their GP can be a daunting and sometimes intimidating experience.
According to NHS Digital over 7 million people aged between 10-19 years are registered with a GP practice in England. An increase of around 180,000 from a year ago.
Visiting a GP practice is typically the first point of contact for many seeking advice or treatment from the NHS. Pressure on GPs is particularly high, with demand for primary care steadily increasing and a lack of sufficient staff or resource to keep up with it.
Could digitalising primary care, make it more accessible and effective for young people?
What’s important for young people?
Those under 18 may be accompanied by an adult when visiting their GP, whereas those aged 18-25 are more likely to attend their consultations alone. Spending much of their time in academic studies or prepping for exams, whilst juggling hobbies or starting a new job can make it hard for a young person to know when they can independently book / attend an appointment with their GP.
Being able to book appointments outside of normal working hours can make reaching out for help more accessible for younger people. The traditional means of calling a busy practice reception first thing in the morning and waiting for a call back, can sometimes make it difficult for young people to access the service they need.
GP practices that adopt online consultation technology, can provide young patients with access to user-friendly booking systems and even mobile access to online consultations.
Providing online consultations removes the need for younger patients to attend their GP consultations in person and take time off school, university or work. They can be organised around personal commitments, without the inconvenience or stress of physically visiting the practice.
A survey conducted by Young Minds, a mental health charity, found that 35 per cent of people aged between 16-25 years feel that their issues may not be significant enough to see a GP in person. Knowing this, we can appreciate how young people need to feel heard and understood by their general practitioner, so they can reach out when they feel they need to. Having an effective online interaction can help a young person feel validated and more comfortable when asking for advice.
A digital solution utilising open-ended questions during the booking process, gives young people the freedom to express themselves in advance of the appointment without the pressures that can come with conveying their symptoms face-to-face.
Systems that include artificial intelligence can also detect specific queries such as mental health concerns, and by triaging based on urgency, young people can be supported quickly.
What challenges are faced by GPs?
The main goal for GPs is to provide quick and appropriate care to their patients. With rising patient volumes of 300 more per GP compared to seven years ago and an increase in complex conditions, it is understandable why the pressure and frustration can be felt by general practitioners.
Because of current workload pressures, GPs may feel that they haven’t as much time as they would like to spend with their younger patients (who may need extra support), in order to fully understand and facilitate their needs.
Young Minds’ research also found that the young people surveyed felt as though the 10-minute appointments they have with their GP can sometimes feel too short to fully discuss their issues, which could have a detrimental impact on healthcare outcomes.
A key benefit of a digital solution is its ability to facilitate virtual communication between GPs and patients, via messages or video calls. Having this method of communication gives a younger patient the freedom to explain their symptoms / query in a way that may feel less daunting than when talking face-to-face, opening the door to a more precise interaction between doctor and patient.
Young people can come away from online consultations with a more personalised experience, which can contribute to better patient outcomes. A digital solution is able to offer online delivery of care alongside the option to have a face-to-face appointment if a patient still prefers that option.
What digital solution is available?
PATCHS online consultation solution employs open-ended free-text questions, allowing patients to fully explain the details of their request in their own words. Artificial Intelligence (AI) flags urgent, emergency and mental health related queries meaning the practice can quickly transfer patient details to the appropriate services.
PATCHS prioritises requests based on the urgency of the patient’s clinical need. The solution helps practices to manage their workflow with the option to distinguish between clinical and non-clinical requests during times of peak workload.
The PATCHS solution supports patients with two-way messaging, video consultation and image / document upload functionality to give flexibility to online consultations. Patients also have their own easy-to-access user account, giving them the freedom to view all current and previous requests outside of normal practice hours.