Starting university can be one of the first ‘big moves’ into adulthood, and often the place where we can start neglecting our health. Revising, socialising and watching the pennies are things students spend a lot of time doing – but where’s the time to think about your health? Registering with a new local GP might not be the first thing on student’s minds, but it can make life a lot easier when moving away from home.
For one GP practice in Sheffield, their patient population is almost entirely made up of students. This tech-savvy group might expect the convenience of doing things like booking doctor’s appointments and ordering their medications online – but many aren’t aware they can do this.
With targets for patients registered to use GP online services rising year-on-year, we look at how Sheffield University Health Centre gets people signed up. We also chat to a registered patient on how keeping a personal health record helps them manage their health as a student.
What are GP online services?
You can order a taxi in an app and manage your bank account from your phone, so booking a doctor’s appointment online should be just as simple. As well as making things easier for patients, it’s also taking the strain off the ever-increasing demands on GP surgeries. With Evergreen Life, GP services that patients can access online include:
- Booking and cancelling appointments
- Ordering repeat prescriptions
- Viewing your GP medical record
Going offline to get patients online
The University of Sheffield Health Centre anticipated the many benefits of going digital, having offered online access to GP services to its student population for over 15 years.
But as students push their health to one side because of looming deadlines, the main challenge is to get the awareness out there that they can manage their health with apps and online services – making things just that bit easier when you’re cramming sessions in at the library.
We chatted to the Assistant Practice Manager Benjamin Hallsworth at Sheffield Uni Health Centre about what works well for them when it comes to getting patients online. He says that whilst they “aim to promote online services at every opportunity, "the real vital method that sets them apart from other practices is verbal face-to-face communication."
“If a student comes and has a blood test for instance, the nurse advises them to view their results online – so then they’ll sign up for their online services that way … We can have leaflets and put videos on the screens in the waiting room, but I think if one of the nurses says, ‘make sure you’ve got your login details,’ the GP promotes it, or even the reception staff, it’s very effective.”
So, for the Sheffield Practice, they’re actively engaging with their patients to make them aware of it at the exact instance it’s useful for them. For example, Benjamin says that “when a patient calls up and there’s no appointments available, the reception staff would ask them to check online and provide login details thereafter.” Quite simply, it’s about making sure everyone at the practice is completely clued-up – as good education is vital in making these kinds of services last longer and run efficiently.
Adam Bennett, who’s an Evergreen Life user signed up at the Sheffield University Practice, heard about the app through word-of-mouth. Evergreen Life was mentioned to him during an introductory talk for postgraduates, similar to the verbal recommendation the practice endorses. He says “the lecture was like a ‘welcome to postgrad life’ talk, where they were informing students on how to look after yourself at uni.”
Making it easy for everyone
Being able to book appointments and order repeat prescriptions online is clearly a huge time-saver. And that’s certainly the case for Evergreen Life user Adam. He says that “as a master’s student, you’ve got a million other things to do, so booking appointments online helps with time-keeping. I don’t have to be on the phone for three hours like I was at my previous university practice!”
Combined with verbal signposting and the promotional material within the waiting areas and on their website, the practice also has an app which directs users to the different GP online services providers including Evergreen Life. Online services aren’t only making things easier for patients, it’s making life easier for the GP practice. 65% of all appointments are being booked online or via an automated phone system, which is relieving admin pressure for the practice and its staff. There’s also been a massive reduction in phone calls going to reception each month.
Why should students use apps to manage their health?
- Put the patient in control
Highlighting the access to GP records, Adam recognises that students who’re away from home for the first time can become more aware of their own health and conditions by just looking up their medical history themselves. This can be particularly invaluable for checking immunisations for holidays or studying abroad. As well as accessing GP services with Evergreen Life, you can add any health information you want – so you have the most up-to-date, accurate health record with you at all times. Adam noted one of the best things was that “you’re able to store documents on there and you can just have it all to hand.” And that information can be extremely valuable when you really need it.
- Prevent ill health
Benjamin points out that there’s a lot of emphasis now on ‘patient-centred care planning.’ He says that giving patients “the ability to reach their health information through various different portals is very useful – it’s about getting the information to students about any options they can take advantage of, before they reach 'crisis point.’” At Evergreen Life, we also believe wholeheartedly in preventative healthcare – helping people stay well for as long as possible, whilst making it easy for patients to get help when they do need it.
- Quick, easy, secure
As almost all students nowadays are tech-literate, with 95% of 16-25 year-olds owning a smartphone, Adam notes that accessing online services “is something that all of us would find very useful. Especially for freshers who are just settling into living by themselves, it’s a much more convenient way for them to book appointments and stay on top of their medicines if they take any.”
And when it comes to our personal health information, it’s totally natural for us to be cautious. But Evergreen Life users can rest assured, knowing their online services are secure. We’re the only app connected to all three GP systems in England who have the same NHS standard for security – and we’re also listed on the official NHS apps library as an assured provider of online services.
- No embarrassment
Something that might stop students going to the doctor is the embarrassment of having to tell the receptionist first. Online access to GP services eliminates any of this, with more discrete ways to book appointments or order meds.
- Prioritising health
Echoing what Benjamin said about preventing health crises, Adam says that whilst “students care about their health, they quite often let it go to waste during times of stress. We don’t care as much when we’ve got deadlines.” But digitising your health and records can put health back as a priority – “using apps like Evergreen Life where you can have everything in one place is a good way to go towards putting your health and yourself first.”
Evergreen Life can help educate your practice staff, GPs and patients on online GP services, and we’re the only provider linked to all three major GP systems in England. Why not request some practice resources to help get you started? Check out our GP resources here.
Whether you’re a student or not, why not take control of your health today with Evergreen Life? With the app, you can book doctor's appointments online, order your repeat prescriptions and view your GP record, as well as track all your personal health information, so you’ve got a joined-up picture of your health right in the palm of your hands. Download the app today and start taking more control.