Access to your family doctor should be easier this winter thanks to the rapid rise of virtual consultations.
During the COVID-19 crisis, GPs have adapted to diagnosing and prescribing via phone or video call, leaving physical examinations at clinics for those who need to be seen.
“Things won’t necessarily go back to the way they were,” Hastings Health Centre GP and Health Hawke’s Bay Medical Director Dr Louise Haywood said.
“General practices had to change the way they worked almost overnight and in the process of redefining services many made improvements to the service they could provide,” Dr Haywood said.
Tamatea Medical Centre GP David Rodgers said the new way of working had brought with it great efficiencies.
“Previously it was taking people longer to get an appointment with their doctor in Hawke’s Bay - we were essentially facing an access crisis. Due to COVID-19 we had to dramatically change the way we worked.
“Now after weeks of treating patients via phone or video call, we’ve realised virtual consultations are a useful tool as it allows a patient to connect with their doctor a lot quicker,” Dr Rodgers said.
Tamatea Medical Centre will continue to use virtual consultations when appropriate along with face-to-face consultations, Dr Rodgers said.
Totara Health had already introduced a phone triage system through the Health Care Home model prior to the COVID-19 crisis. During lockdown, this moved to a full virtual consultation.
Dr Sandra Jessop said she and her colleagues adapted well to the new way of working.
“We realised just how much you can do over the phone, and it’s great when you can provide patients with a same day service.”
Totara Health General Manager Shane Gorst said virtual consultations would continue to be part of the service offered to patients.
“Our patients will benefit from shorter waiting times this winter because virtual consultations assist our doctors to see more patients.
“It also means a mother with young children doesn’t need to bring the whole family in to receive the care they need, saving them time and transport costs,” Mr Gorst said.
However, those who need to be, or want to be seen in-person will be asked to come in.
“We welcome our patients back to our Nelson St and Flaxmere clinics, but they should continue to call ahead as our doctors might be able to save them a trip,” Mr Gorst said.
Dr Haywood said it’s important that people continue to ring their general practice for an appointment as they normally would.
“Your doctor will decide if they want to see you in the clinic or whether the issue can be handled via a phone or video consultation,” she said.