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East GPs and consultants Confer

27 June 2011   Shanna Crispin

A new communication system hosted on N3 will go live in the East of England in the next fortnight.

Confer is an online tool that will enable GPs to liaise with a consultant if they have queries about a patient.

It has been developed over the past year by Shane Gordon, associate medical director of NHS East of England, in collaboration with Cloud2.

Dr Gordon told eHealth Insider that GPs sending patients to hospital for advice from a specialist was like “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

“If a GP is not certain whether a patient needs to be referred or admitted, currently the only option is to send them on to the hospital.

"For patients who turn out not to have a serious condition, or don’t need to be there, the process can be quite distressing and even frightening.”

Confer allows GPs to log-on and instantly request advice from a consultant who is also logged-on.

This communication options include instant messaging, emailing, requests for phone consultations and scheduling future ‘confers’.

Dr Gordon brought the idea to the UK after seeing a similar system in the US.

“There were several GPs on the trip and we all looked at each other at the same time and said ‘wouldn’t that be fantastic if we could get that information from consultants.’

"We all agreed it would make our lives considerably more productive.”

Dr Gordon said preparations for go-live have been under way since February. A proof of concept pilot is set to run until October.

More than 400 clinicians are currently registered to use the system. More than three quarters of them are GPs within the NHS East of England area.

The rest are consultants in Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn and Colchester General Hospital.

Allan Harkness, a consultant cardiologist at Colchester General Hospital, has been taking part in the initial phase of the study.

He said knowledge and enthusiasm is gradually increasing. “I guess GPs have varying levels of IT skills, but slowly it’s building up and they are recognising what the system can do for them.”

Development of the system has been paid for by NHS East of England. However, with another round of NHS reorganisation under way, there are questions about where future funding will come from.

“Once we’ve proved that the concept works, then we are going to have to look for a sustainable model by which we can provide the service," Dr Gordon said. "We’ve got a number of options that are open to us at the moment."


Related Articles:

1 News: O2 Health looks to centres of excellence | 11 November 2010
Last updated: 26 June 2011 17:35

© 2011 EHealth Media.


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Why not CAB

simonjhudson 164 weeks ago

We all took a long, hard look at CAB prior to going down the Confer route.

There were sound reasons for developing Confer and its underlying technology. We would be happy to discuss these in an appropriate forum, as well as teh busiess case and other aspects of the programme and technology.


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Online tool that will enable GPs to liaise with a consultant

Mick 164 weeks ago

Forgive me but would it not be better to just develop the 'advice and guidance' in a national system (CAB) that we ALL have access to already? Am I missing something here? Why go off and reinvent at huge expense when we should be developing what we already have to better fit everyones needs (not just the East of England)?


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National roll out ?

Steve Fuller 164 weeks ago

This looks ideal, how can we all get a slice of the cake? Though from past experience I suspect there may be some interesting debates about "is this what I'm paid to do ...etc etc."


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National roll out

simonjhudson 164 weeks ago

Hi Steve

there is definitely a desire to go national and bring more people and organisations on board. Confer is a regional project at present, but the technology is avalable to other regions and trusts either in conjunction with EoE or as a new project.

As a first port of call you should get in touch with Shane and the East of England team. If you want to chat to us then we are very happy for that too - contact details on the Cloud2 website if required.


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