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A digital solution to a complex problem?

21st July 2017

Mark Harmon, Junior Doctor, Strategic and Brand Director eConsult and Clinical Fellow, gives his views on the importance of #GPonlineLondon.


The NHS faces many challenges. Patients are struggling to access their GP, health conditions are becoming more complex, treatments more expensive, and often patients simply do not know where to go for help. This situation is only going to be exacerbated by an ageing population with ever increasing and complex health needs.

One thing is clear; something has to change as the current situation is unsustainable. We will need to think differently, do more with less and be open to the options technology provides us.

My view is that money alone will not fix the problems but by using innovation and embracing technical and digital developments, we will be able to sign post patients to the most appropriate care, enable patients to be in control of their health and widen access to healthcare. 

I am currently working on a digital project with an East London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) delivering an online triage and consultation platform for primary care aligned with the NHS GPFV mandate.It hasn’t been an easy project to deliver.

Change is a difficult concept for some, especially when people are so busy and there is little mind space for new ideas. We found some practices embraced the idea and some resisted but slowly over a period of time the pioneers of change became advocates and started to convince their more sceptical colleagues of the benefits digital health can bring to both patient and provider. The biggest audience to convince is not the patients – they love the convenience and freedom – but the clinicians.

Assistance through this change management process is key. We did this through co-creation of the product with key stakeholders, empowering advocates, listening and engaging, sharing best practices and transparency when things go wrong and having practices to champion the cause.

Now patients can consult any time, minor conditions can be remotely managed and practices are benefiting from increased productivity and efficiency savings; giving breathing space to an asphyxiated system.

Whilst this is the first small step on a long journey, I am excited by the potential for change. There is no overnight fix and money can’t solve all the problems we face but using technology to improve patient care, experience and access is definitely a winning solution to this complex problem.”

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