The Gibraltar Health Authority yesterday unveiled a new 24hr automated telephone service that will enable patients to book and cancel Primary Care Centre appointments any time of the day.
The new automated phone call service will be provided in the English and Spanish languages via the number 20007007 and will be launched next month.
Callers will be greeted with a menu of options to book the next available routine GP or Nurse Practitioner appointment, or to book a particular primary care specialist clinic, such as the smoking cessation clinic.
Upon booking an appointment callers on mobile phones will receive a confirmation text message as a reminder. Those calling on a landline will not receive a reminder message.
The automated telephone appointment system is charged at local call rates.
Currently the PCC answers around 300 to 350 phone calls a day with some 500 to 550 appointments available.
The automated telephone service will see 250 appointments available for booking as from 6pm the day before.
To book an appointment, patients must verify their identity by inputting their date of birth and their mobile number, in order to receive the message confirmation.
The PCC have emphasised that people need to update their contact number on their health records before using the service.
“One of the issues that we are focusing on was the perennial issue of persons calling the PCC to book an appointment,” the Minister for Health, Neil Costa, told reporters.
“I am sure it would not surprise anyone to hear me say that it has been central to the complaints that have been made to the PCC is the ability to be able to seamlessly make an appointment or cancel an appointment.”
“The focus for us for the longest time has been on clinical matters, improving numbers of GPs and introducing new services. We also realise that central to those reforms had to be the ability to book an appointment easily and to cancel easily.”
Mr Costa added that his team are currently working on an online solution to book and cancel appointments on the web. This will be launched in the coming months.
“The telephone is still very much a means of communication for the majority of patients who attend the PCC,” Mr Costa said.
“People either want to use their phone or attend to book an appointment. Although online functionality is definitely a must and we are working to achieve that, we thought that given the demographic of persons that mostly use the PCC we thought we could not move to online functionality without having a robust automated telephone system.”
Director of Primary Care Dr Krishna Rawal highlighted that the PCC is making efforts to improve the service. He recommends that parents with twins who need to use the service should use a different contact number for each twin to avoid confusion with mirroring date of births and contact numbers.
He added that there are even options to book your preferred GP or clinic, but stressed that this is a pilot scheme that will see changes as the initiative progresses.
There is also an option to speak directly with an operator through the automated system.
“The PCC is attended by over 500 people every single day,” Mr Costa said.
“The statistic is that almost 100% of our population attend Accident and Emergency annually. We are a country that makes ample use, rightly, of its health services. Therefore we have to work and find ways in making the experience as seamless as possible.”
The GHA will be issuing leaflets closer to the launch date to ensure patients understand the new system.
Forms to update details will be available from the PCC and online soon. If details are not correct the automated system will not be able to verify the patient.