So here I am in journal club (it helps to fill in those sad empty hours between surgeries), about to present a paper from 1989 (to show how cutting edge I am) when I notice the news on my phone, (because I’m not really paying attention).
How marvellous! Those lovely people at eConsult are introducing ‘demand management’ features because they recognise we GPs are overwhelmed. Well, with work, yes, but now with joy! Though I have to say that putting the electronic consult link on a page of our website that no one ever visits (‘How to help your doctor’) manages demand quite well, as does not putting it on the website at all.
Still. I suddenly realise that the archaic paper I’m presenting is bang on the money. Because it features this unbelievable stat: for every 40 symptoms a patient experiences, only one is presented to the GP.
And no, not because the other 39 kill them before they get to us – whoever said that, see me after journal club. No, it’s because most symptoms are trivial and transient. They resolve into distant memory before the patient can negotiate the minor hurdles of delays getting an appointment, unimpressed receptionists etc. Thank the Great God of general practice, we’d say, for these benign barriers – without them, we’d be 39 times busier.
Fast forward to now, and that’s exactly how we feel: electronic consulting means tonight’s temporary symptom blips – through whimsy, neurosis or a need for instant gratification – are, whatever the time, at the click of a mouse, tomorrow’s workload dump. And it’s been hell.
Not any more. At last, it seems the enthusiasts have realised what we all knew – e-consulting doesn’t spread work, it generates it. I knew they’d see sense eventually. But frankly, I could have told them this long ago. 32 years, to be precise.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield