Primary care coding activity related to the use of online consultation systems or remote consulting
Primary care coding activity related to the use of online consultation systems or remote consulting: an analysis of 53 million peoples’ health records using OpenSAFELY
How to cite: Fonseca M, MacKenna B, Mehrkar A et al. Primary care coding activity related to the use of online consultation systems or remote consulting: an analysis of 53 million peoples’ health records using OpenSAFELY. medRxiv 2023.01.25.23284428; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.01.25.23284428
The pandemic accelerated work by the NHS in England to enable and stimulate use of online consultation systems across all practices, for improved access to primary care.
We aimed to explore general practice coding activity associated with the use of online consultation systems in terms of trends, COVID-19 effect, variation and quality.
With the approval of NHS England, OpenSAFELY-TPP and OpenSAFELY-EMIS were used to query and analyse in situ records of electronic health record systems of over 53 million patients in over 6,400 practices, mainly in 2019-2020. SNOMED CT codes relevant to online consultation systems and written online consultations were identified. Coded events were described by volumes, practice coverage, trends pre- and post-COVID-19 and inter-practice and sociodemographic variation.
3,550,762 relevant coding events were found in TPP practices, with code eConsultation detected in 84% of practices. Coding activity related to digital forms of interaction increased rapidly from March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, though we found large variation in coding instance rates among practices in England. Code instances were more commonly found among females, those aged 18-40, those least deprived or white. eConsultation coded activity was more commonly found recorded among patients with a history of asthma or depression.
We successfully queried general practice coding activity relevant to the use of online consultation systems, showing increased adoption as well as key areas of variation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The work can be expanded to support monitoring of coding quality and underlying activity. In future, large-scale impact evaluation studies can be implemented within the platform, namely looking at resource utilisation and patient outcomes.