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Each month Digital Innovation Lead, Kwesi Afful, will review digital health advancements and explore whether or not they can help the population enjoy longer, happier and healthier lives. He’ll cover a range of topics from apps to virtual reality and genome projects to artificial intelligence.

Are we there yet?

Usually a question more commonly heard from the back seat of a car on a journey testing the patience of all, I’m reflecting on where we are at on journey to a new and exciting place; the NHS’s use of digital technology to improve patient care. 

Today, most of us use our mobiles to shop, bank and access news but now we can manage our health online too. Over the past few years a range of great measures have been introduced to improve access to NHS services, but for me the greatest digital innovation is GP online.

So why do I think it’s so great? GP online gives patients the ability to book, change and cancel appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view their health records all from their mobile phone or tablet. The service, which is available to all Londoners, can be accessed at any time, in any place and it's free to everyone registered with a GP practice in the UK.

Why is GP online so important?

The UK is faced with a growing, aging and diverse population which puts pressure on the traditional model of general practice. Practice staff are processing endless appointments, referrals and prescriptions, all of which impact on the time that they can spend on other important matters relating to patient health. 

Practice managers in surgeries with high patient registration for GP online services are reporting a great improvement in their administrative process and improved patient care as a result. 

There are also a number of benefits for those who lead busy lives; carers, parents and those who work. Being able to make and amend appointments at a time convenient to them, not having to go into the surgery to get regular repeat prescriptions and being able to access their health records or the records of people they care for, saves so much time. 

GP online is also great for patients with long term conditions. I have diabetes and use my GP online account to get my diabetes prescriptions and make appointments so that I can spend my time doing other things that are important to me such as spending time with family and friends. Ordering my prescriptions takes two minutes, literally!

Registering is easy, safe and secure. I’m not surprised that in a recent survey of those registered, 89% found the process simple to follow. 

So, are we there yet in terms of digital health transformation in the NHS? GP online is a great example that we are on track and that the NHS has embraced the innovations of the twenty-first century.  However, there is still some way to go, but like the reply so many parents give their little darlings: “Nearly there, just a little bit longer, please be patient.”