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News

Digital interactive TV service enables patients to book GP appointments

EMIS : 24 July, 2007  (New Product)
More than 1,100 GP surgeries are set 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 has extended the successful GP booking service with the aim of reaching those households across the digital divide.

Patients across the UK are now able to safely access their GP’s 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 the facility available to internet users, so it was 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.

Statistics prove that following the implementation of the service there were fewer DNAs (Do Not Attends), which has led to savings in the GP surgeries and allows for a smoother flow of patients through the waiting room.

If patients in participating areas do not already have their passwords, they can get access information from the doctor’s receptionist, this then allows them to log in to the system. Then in real time, the patient can book, amend or cancel an appointment depending on how they are feeling.

Future plans for the service include repeat prescriptions and patient health information, which will further help to reduce the pressures on the local GP practice.

Sean Riddell, healthcare managing director of EMIS, welcomed the national expansion of the DigiTV service, which will significantly increase the availability of EMIS's free internet and DiTV GP appointment booking service.

Riddell 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.”

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.

Looking Local offers a full range of useful local services beyond doctors’ appointments. For instance viewers of DiTV and mobile phone users can look for a job by accessing the Jobcentre Plus database, they can find out train and bus times by using the Transport Direct service and access a range of information from Citizens Advice. All this national content is supplemented by local services provided by over 70 local authorities across the UK.

Kirklees Council owns and runs DigiTV on behalf of local government, Steve Langrick, Kirklees interactive services manager said: 'Doctors appointments are a great addition to the Looking Local service. It brings a truly personal and useful service to a growing audience and continues efforts to create a nationally relevant community focused portal on both digital interactive TV and mobile. Doctors’ appointments are cited by many across government as a key e-Government service so we are pleased to now be able to offer it to patients across the country.”

More homes now have access to digital TV than the Internet and over 80 percent of the adult population owns a mobile phone. So DiTV and mobile are now key channels for government service delivery in general, but particularly to those with no Internet access and limited PC skills who often have a high usage of government services. Efficiencies can be made on many levels and giving equal access to e-Government services so that patients can contact their surgery when it suits them means that there is fairer access for all.

South Yorkshire has piloted doctors appointments for well over a year now. Gary Simpson is the programme manager of e@SY Connects and said: “South Yorkshire (e@SY Connects) pioneered this truly innovative, inclusive facility and we are therefore so pleased that the rest of the country is now benefiting from our build once, share with many approach to sustainable public sector service delivery. Over the past year it has certainly increased usage of the e@SY DiTV and mobile services and brought benefits to numerous layers of the system.”

With the analogue switchover programme beginning next year and more people understanding what DiTV can offer them besides additional channels, Looking Local is experiencing record usage as people switch on and tune in to locally and personally relevant services.
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