On any given weekday over 250,000 Australians book an appointment for a GP. This was before COVID-19 reached Australian shores and grew exponentially. So what has happened to the volume of doctor’s appointments in response to COVID-19? We investigated.
How GP bookings have changed in response to COVID-19
When we look at the numbers of daily GP bookings before and during the escalation of COVID-19—which began in early March and grew exponentially—we can see that virtually nothing has changed. Sorry to disappoint.
Although this in itself is interesting. While the number of coronavirus cases has grown largely across March, the number of GP appointments has remained relatively steady. Of course, on the one hand, this reflects that looking at the big picture coronavirus has affected very few of us. True. Although on the other hand, what about all those panicked people who wake up with a sore throat or a runny nose and go straight to “worse case scenario”. Are there not more GP appointments because of the COVID fears?
Well, apparently not. While the media has done nothing more than feed us COVID stories—stories we regurgitate to one another over video chats—for the most part the total numbers of GP appointments have remained stable.
One silver lining is that, for now anyway, people appear to be calm when it comes to their desire to see their GP. At least we aren’t all fighting for our doctor’s time the way we did for toilet paper.
The telehealth trend commences
While the above findings may be a little bland for some, one interesting thing we did come across when digging into the data was how quickly in-person consults are being replaced by teleconsults.
While total bookings have remained reasonably unchanged across doctors in Australia, teleconsults have risen considerably since mid-March. This syncs with the Government’s initial introduction of a telehealth Medicare rebate for COVID-19 suspected patients.
Since then all patients have become eligible for the telehealth Medicare rebate, so we expect the number of telehealth appointments to climb a lot over the coming weeks. Perhaps we can circle back on the data in a month or two to see just how fast telehealth is being adopted.
I’ve seen a drop in bookings at my clinic
Seen a drop in bookings at your clinic? Well, considering bookings haven’t dropped across the board, a drop in bookings at your clinic is certainly reversible.
Here are 3 things we recommend you try to increase bookings:
1. Make it clear to patients that you have a telehealth option available
Patients are just as worried about going into your clinic in-person as you are having them come in. By making it clear that you offer teleconsults, you could improve your bookings by simply making your patients feel safer making a booking.
2. Add a COVID-19 page to your website
This page should be written for patients and easily found from your homepage. It should show that you understand the seriousness of COVID-19 and outline the steps you are taking to keep patients safe. If your procedures are changing during COVID, explain to them how. And if you offer a telehealth option, state this on the page with an explanation on how to use it.
3. Send an email to patients
Much like the above, we also recommend that you send an email to patients explaining how you’re responding to COVID-19 and what solutions you have put in place to keep them safe in the interim. If you need an email template, you can find one in our Patient Pack.