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Lockdown drives patient portal uptake

Thursday, 16 July 2020  
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Picture: GP at Hora te Pai Chris Fawcett editor Rebecca McBeth


Nearly 8000 new patients registered for a patient portal in the 3DHBs region between February and May 2020.


A report from the Information Management Alliance Programme Board says more than 167,000 patients from 60 practices across the Capital and Coast, Wairarapa and Hutt Valley DHBs region now have access to a portal.


“With the increase in patient registration for a patient portal, more patients can receive secure communication from the practice and could be offered other virtual services such as secure messaging, request repeat prescriptions, viewing lab results,” the report says.


During lockdown, practices used a Telephone Assessment and Triage tool to assess patients before they went into a surgery.


GP at Hora te Pai Chris Fawcett says his practice has continued using telephone triage in Alert level 1.


If a patient rings for an appointment, reception offers either a phone, video or in-person consult and if the patient wants an in-person consultation, the GP phones them first.


In the month following lockdown, 28 percent of patients were dealt with by the GP on the phone, 32 percent got an appointment on the same day with their GP and 33 percent had an appointment booked for later.


Speaking at a telehealth webinar, Fawcett said the practice's patients do not use video consults, mainly because they do not have any data on their phones. However, virtual care was particularly useful for diagnosing skin problems as patients were able to send pictures.


He says the new ‘digital first’ approach has improved access with a “significant” decrease in Did Not Attends, which has also reduced the need for patients to go to the local emergency department.


The IMA report says phone consultations were the most widely utilised virtual consult method between February and May 2020 across the 3DHB region.


“From Monday 23 March, across the region we saw more patients given access to virtual care options via a patient portal and more practices offering phone and video consultations for non-acute services,” it says.


Thirteen practices in Capital and Coast DHB and four practices in Wairarapa are offering patients secure messaging via their patient portal or e-consults via email. In the Hutt Valley, more than two thirds of practices are providing email consults, and around one third, the clinical open notes function.


Fawcett, who is also medical director of Tu Ora Compass Health, will present on the PHO’s response to Covid-19 during the NZ session of the Digital Health Virtual Summer School on July 24. Read more and register to attend here.


If you would like to provide feedback on this news story, please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.


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