Paul Bensley X-on CEO - Why digital telephony can be vital in helping GPs in their fight against the coronavirus threat

Paul Bensley

Digital telephony vital in helping GPs…

Why digital telephony can be vital in helping GPs in their fight against the coronavirus threat

Practices are turning to Surgery Connect to provide worried patients with the latest coronavirus advice, and to help existing and returning GPs work from home to minimise the spread of the infection.

The fight against coronavirus is now global, and in the last few days has become a serious reality in the UK that threatens to disrupt daily life for very many of us. We need to do everything we can to help doctors cope with the massive spike in demand for their help. Digital telephony has a key role to play in helping tackle the coronavirus outbreak, with communications benefits both for patients and clinicians.

With thousands of people swamping GP phone lines asking for advice, we have been working tirelessly on behalf of our practices to keep automated telephone messages on our Surgery Connect digital telephone system up to date with the latest NHS messages on coronavirus. This is helping inform patients and those concerned by the virus, as well as working to minimise the pressure on practice staff.

Surgery Connect GP@Home helps doctors take and receive calls from home, so they can deal with patients’ concerns without risking the further spread of infection through a face to face appointment.

All calls will appear as if they had made them in the surgery, and will be recorded and logged in the usual way with links to EMIS Web and SystmOne.

NHS England is encouraging practices to triage appointments through phone or video consultations to support the management of infection risk, and to allow patients to be given appropriate advice and support.

Why digital telephony can be vital in helping GPs in their fight against the coronavirus threat

Surgery Connect is already being used for telephone consultations, and many surgeries are using our new video consultation functionality Video Connect. This sees doctors being able to switch between phone and video consultation, by sending a link to a patient's smartphone and without the requirement to book in advance or download an app.

We are also exploring how we support those GPs who are being asked to come out of retirement to work remotely. Surgery Connect comes with a distributed call centre and clinical system integration, so that doctors can work from home and still provide telephone advice to patients, with direct and secure access to patient records.

Practices and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are in constant contact as the outbreak develops. For this reason, we are offering a free teleconferencing service and number which may be adopted at primary care network or CCG level. One of our CCG customers has already managed a large teleconference on the collective approach to coronavirus recently.

We recognise that coronavirus should not be viewed dispassionately as a commercial opportunity; it is a worldwide crisis that requires the positive action of multiple stakeholders to help reduce its negative impact. We are actively working with others to help tackle the crisis.

One thing that is becoming clear, however. Digital technology can provide excellent support to practices when it is most needed, as outlined by NHSX director of digital experience Polly Bishop. "Through the coronavirus, there may be a way of us forcing the pace and learning the benefits on what we can do [in digital healthcare]," she said, according to the HSJ. It is one positive out of a hugely worrying situation for all.

Contact us on 0333 332 0000 if you want to know more about what we are doing.