Over 1,100 surgeries are now in a position to offer their patients the ability to book, amend and cancel GP appointments via digital interactive TV and mobile.
In a concerted effort to offer e-Government services to the widest range of people, DigiTV in conjunction with EMIS, a leading primary care systems provider, has extended the successful GP booking service with the aim of reaching those households across the digital divide.
Patients across the country are now able to safely access their GPs appointment book just by pushing a few buttons on their remote control or mobile phone. Patients will have access to the same system that the doctor's receptionist uses when someone phones up or asks for an appointment in person. EMIS has already made this facility available to internet users, making it a natural extension to make it available on DiTV and mobile phones.
Surgeries in South Yorkshire, Stoke and Reading and Wrexham have been using the DiTV booking system for some time and now it is nationally available via the Looking Local portal on DiTV.
Sean Riddell, Healthcare Managing Director of EMIS, welcomed the national expansion of the DigiTV service. He said: "This is a significant milestone for GPs, practice staff and patients. The technology is now in place to offer this free service to a far bigger audience using a range of technical platforms. We will be actively encouraging practices to switch on EMIS Access and start to realise the benefits."
Commenting on the announcement, Professor Mayur Lakhani, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: "We welcome this development. It shows that general practice is committed to modernisation and to improving ease of access for patients.
"As a practising GP, I know from personal experience that the option of booking appointments online has proved very popular and would expect that this project will have a similarly positive impact.
"Digital TV, the internet and mobile phones are all part of modern society and it is essential that we offer patients a range of choices to allow them to book an appointment with their GP in a way that is most convenient for them."
Free GP appointment booking is available via Looking Local on the interactive menus on Sky, cable and Freeview boxes with a modem or broadband connection. On WAP enabled mobile phones access to Looking Local is charged at varying rates depending on the service provider.
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"I already use the emis on line appointment system and have found that it improves patient access and helps to reduce incoming calls to the practice. We have been using this system for over 2 years and would recommend it to anyone as a way to improve access. The surgery retains control over who has access to the system and can cease access at anytime. It has significantly reduced patients complaints about booking appointments and all patients that are registered for this service are extremly satisfied with it" - Name and address supplied