Digital Consultation and Telephone Improvements

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In response to feedback from our patients and to improve the service we provide we’re pleased to announce changes to to our digital platform this month and out telephone service in September

eConsultations moving to PATCH’s


Many of you will be familiar with digital consultations that we’ve been offering for the last 2 years for routine issues.  We are going to trial a new platform for this.


  • From the 8th August we will be trialling a new digital consultation platform PATCH’s instead of eConsult.
  • It will require users to create an account but this means you only have to enter your details once and ensures we can verify who we are consulting with.
  • It typically only asks 5 “open” questions but for it to work we need people to provide a good level of detail in their responses.
  • It also offers a translation service for our non English speaking patients.
  • When we can’t offer the service it will tell you when it is next available


Why offer Digital Consultations and Why are we trying a new Platform?

2 years ago we were one of the first local practices to offer digital consultations via eConsult.  We now receive 40 to 50 requests a day although we can’t limit the number and occasionally get far more.  One of our administrators and GPs deals with these every day.  Whilst we know many don’t like it we have found when we surveyed patients it is consistently popular with some patients.  In our last survey, responded to by 216 patients it was second only to contact by telephone

Survey Image

We do appreciate online surveys will bias those who are likely like online access but they have consistently showed it is appreciated by a significant number.

Subjective feedback in surveys and from conversations also consistently report that people do no like the multiple questions eConsult asks and that it will often not allow people to progress their request due to an answer they have given.  We have increasingly seen people not or misanswer questions to get through the system.  This is frustrating for users and often us when we are unable to resolve issues quickly.  As a practice we have also sometimes struggled with the unlimited requests and have on occasions had to turn the platform off.

We have looked at other digital options and have decided to try PATCH’s.  This works by asking 5 questions and then uses artificial intelligence to prompt users to answer further questions – please answer these.  The number of questions is vastly less than eConsult.  For us to respond effectively it will be critical for user’s to give us details responses.  It also won’t stop submissions even if it appears that someone should seek more urgent health care (but will prompt them to).  Early trials have shown the artificial intelligence to be fairly limited but the programme uses machine learning and this should improve in real time.

The eConsult platform does not allow us to limit the requests which means we turn it off over the weekends and bank holidays when we appreciate can be good times for users to submit requests.  PATCH’s allows us to limit the requests which means we can more safely respond to requests and so we can offer all of the time (initially we won’t on Saturday) and when we’ve received the limit it will advise when the service is next available.

For further detail on how to use see the PATCH’s Guide

New Telephone Service in September

At some point in September we will move to a new Telephone provider.  We have struggled with the reliability of our current provider for some time and apologise for the stress this has caused – it has taken a lot of our time managing it.  We have done a lot of research and are excited to move to a new provider Surgery Connect

We are confident this service is reliable and offers us lots of new functionality to be more efficient and navigate you to the help more efficiently.  Critically it also offers callers a call back queuing system so you can get off the phone and the system will call you back in the order that you have called – we encourage you to use it when me move.