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Changing consultation access for patients (demand management)
Changing consultation access for patients (demand management)

Customise when patients can submit an eConsult to the practice

Faye avatar
Written by Faye
Updated over a week ago

This article covers:


Demand management features

Patients tell us that they prefer eConsult to be available at all hours of the day as it provides them more flexibility in terms of when they can contact their practice. However, we know that GP practices work under increasing pressure and sometimes can’t manage all the incoming patient contacts they receive.

That’s why eConsult practices are able to customise the consultation submission element of the service:

Set consultation hours

  • Turn off eConsult until the next working day ('snooze' eConsults)

  • Receive eConsults only during working hours (08:00 to 18:30, Monday to Friday)

  • Receive eConsults 24 hours a day (recommended setting)

Consultation hours options

By default, eConsult is available to patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no limit on the number of eConsults patients can submit.

When the service is not available patients will still be able to access self-help content, but they will not be able to start a consultation questionnaire (unless you have decided they can access a clinical review). If you would like to implement these changes, we recommend that you let your patients know the reason why they may not be able to access eConsult at all hours.

Set consultation limits (capping)

You can set daily caps for all eConsults - you can set different caps for each day of the week, Monday to Sunday. If you don't want to set a limit, you can leave the box blank.

You can also choose to exclude Long Term Condition/clinical review templates and responses from patients from the cap and demand management as a whole

Consultation hours options

With capping, we are trying to limit the chance of your practice receiving eConsults above your desired limit. To do this, we stop patients from starting a consultation when the number of consultations started (not submitted) meets the cap.

For example, if your daily cap is 100 eConsults, after 100 consultations have been started (not submitted), we will allow no more consultations to be started. However, please note that some patients may not complete their submissions, which would result in lower submissions than the set cap.

Register to get this for your practice

The demand management features are optional but need approval from your commissioning body for practices that wish to use them.

If you have any questions about this or want to request the demand management features for your practice, email practice.support@econsult.health or get in touch with us using the live chat option in the lower right-hand corner of our help centre.


Changing your consultation settings

The demand management features are easy to use but they require activation:

  1. Change your demand management settings: Using your demand management settings link, anyone in your practice can request a change from the available options. They need to supply their details for audit purposes. This automatically triggers an activation email.

  2. An activation email: The emails are always sent to the same practice email address that the eConsults are sent to. Our servers send the activation email within seconds, but delivery is dependent on NHS Mail, which is outside our control.

  3. Confirm to instantly update: Click the link in the activation email within 1 hour of requesting the change. The requested change is then instantly applied.

You access your consultation settings through your practice's demand management settings link. This link is unique for your practice so you can bookmark or save it for easy access. (The support team would have shared this link with you once when you first requested access to this feature.)

Once you have selected the demand management options you would like to activate for your practice, you will need to read and fill in your request details.

This page will then update to show a 'request in progress' message until the activation email has been confirmed. It will show you who requested the change and the details of that change:

The request will be sent to the email address where you normally receive eConsult patient PDF reports. Our servers send the activation email within seconds, but delivery is dependent on NHS Mail, which is outside our control.

You’ll need to verify this request by clicking the 'Activate change to eConsult demand' button in the email sent to you. It will need to be done within the time frame specified (within 1 hour of the request being made). If the request is not verified in time, then the change will no longer apply and you will need to request the change again.

You will not get a choice of when these new hours start, they will apply from the moment that the request is verified.

Once verified, eConsult submissions will switch to the chosen settings and the service will display the relevant national redirect message to patients outside of these hours (see 'Messaging for patients' section below).

Your demand management features settings page will change to reflect your new chosen settings. You can amend your consultation hours at any time by following the same process again.


Messaging for patients

The messaging shown to patients on your practice's eConsult page will vary depending on the setting you have chosen above. If there are alternative services that patients can be signposted to, these will also appear (and be appropriate based on geographies).

During the week

Over the weekend


FAQs

What happens if my practice already closes eConsult at the weekend?

If your practice already switches off eConsult over the weekend but remains available overnight during the week and you would like to keep these hours, we recommend that you do not activate the 'in hours' feature. This feature allows you to restrict patient access to the consultation part of eConsult so that it is only available between 08:00 and 18:30, Monday to Friday. If your practice is switched off over the weekend and you add a capping value the practice will remain switched off.

What happens if I have already set my own eConsult access hours?

If you have already set your own eConsult hours, we recommend that you do not activate the 'in hours' feature. This feature allows you to restrict patient access to the consultation part of eConsult so that it is only available between 08:00 and 18:30, Monday to Friday. If you have already established access hours that differ from these, this feature would override your current hours.

How long will it take for the request to be activated?

This change is self-service, which means the eConsult team does not need to change any of your settings for you. Therefore, the change will be activated as soon as you verify your request. Because the activation emails are sent via NHSmail, there may be delays in getting these emails to you if NHS mail has issues. In this instance, please reach out to us via our live chat.

Will patients who started an eConsult during working hours be able to finish their eConsult out of hours?

Any in-progress eConsults will be allowed to be completed and submitted to the practice - we don't stop patients if they have already started an eConsult submission.

What happens on Bank Holidays?

Practices that have weekend closure will remain off for any Bank Holidays. If you want to confirm or to close at an alternative time for the Bank Holiday please email practice.support@econsult.health.

Is there a maximum or minimum limit for capping?

The daily limit must be at least 1 but there is no upper limit. To turn off consultations entirely for that day the practice hours would need to be changed, please either use the consultation hours feature or email practice.support@econsult.health.

Do the consultation hours and capping features impact all templates?

At present, if you switch the platform off either using the hours feature or by setting (and reaching) a cap, all templates (including admin, clinical and long term conditions) will be switched off.

If I hit the cap can I change it?

At present, once you have hit your daily cap, you are then unable to change it that day.

How often can I change my cap?

Caps cannot be changed if that day’s cap has already been reached, however you can amend your cap for future dates at any time. For example, if you set your cap to 100 and you find that you actually tend to receive 90, you could decide to set future caps to 110. You can then monitor how many more eConsults are received and if you are able to manage these additional consultations.


If you have any questions or you feel that this article could be improved, please feel free to give us some feedback by emailing us, pressing the emojis below or using the chat button on the bottom right-hand side of this page to speak to one of the eConsult team.

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