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Project #2:
Online consultations


An online consultation enables a patient to contact their GP, other health professional or GP practice staff over the internet, typically by using a smartphone, tablet or computer. This is a fairly new technology in terms of adoption, though its use had been accelerated by the pandemic. NHSE/I, through its Digital First Primary Care (DFPC) programme, has been working on enabling and stimulating the use of online consultation systems as a means to improve access to primary care and make best use of clinicians’ time.

OpenSAFELY was identified as a way of providing intelligence on online consultations activity prior and alongside the pandemic, particularly in the way events are recorded or not in primary care records via dedicated codes. In this initial discovery piece, we looked at:

  • understanding how certain online consultation-relevant codes of were used in terms of adoption and volume
  • understanding broad demographics and past clinical history of those associated with online consultation-relevant codes

These insights are being triangulated further with supplier data and qualitative findings as part of a wider research piece. Wider efforts on improving intelligence for operational, research and evaluation purposes are also underway.