Working as a virtual consultation GP
We catch up with Doctor Care Anywhere's Dr. Abigail Davis; a GP who seems to be reaping the benefits working as a virtual consultation GP.
Are you a GP looking to work flexibly around your developing portfolio career?
Or perhaps you’re needing more time around the home due to other commitments?
With the advent of virtual consultation GPs, we catch up with Doctor Care Anywhere‘s Dr. Abigail Davis; a GP who seems to be reaping the benefits from this new way of working! We find out how she ended up in this role and how she finds the sometimes nerve-wracking experience of ‘examining’ patients online.
I first decided to become a GP during my final year at medical school: I loved the variety of the job, building relationships with patients and colleagues, and the opportunity to be my own boss. However, during my GP training I realised I wanted to diversify more and develop a portfolio career, so after qualifying in 2016 I started looking for possibilities.
Whilst working 6 sessions a week as a salaried GP, I was also looking for various ways to boost my income.
I found out about Doctor Care Anywhere (DCA) from a GP group on Facebook: one of the group members was asking whether anyone had experience of working for them.
Several people had replied very positively so I decided to contact their recruitment team, very soon finding myself having a Skype interview with the Clinical Director!
Virtual GP Interview
He asked me about my clinical experience, and also explained more about how to ‘examine’ patients online. The interview lasted about thirty minutes and I was informed at the end that I had been successful!
I had 2 hours of training which took place 2 weeks later, followed by my first shift later that week.
I logged in nervously about fifteen minutes before my shift and started to look through the notes of my booked patients. As doctors, we can see their previous consultations and prescriptions, and any health information they have added such as medication or allergies. Patients write a short summary of why they are consulting, so the appointment can be triaged.
Patients can also upload photos; this is really useful for reviewing rashes and skin lesions in more detail. Appointments are 20 minutes long and can be phone or video appointments.
We also have access to an instant messaging system to communicate with the admin team and other doctors so it was easy to ask the questions that came up as I consulted.
Flexibility for Work/Life Balance
I really love the flexibility of this work. I am definitely not a morning person, so being able to start work a bit later with no commute works really well for me.
Appointments are booked from 8am- 10pm seven days a week and shifts are two to three hours long. I can choose which shifts I work and the shift timings are flexible.
As a result I can easily fit online work around other commitments and events. I work ad hoc shifts each month but many doctors work a regular shift. The team are friendly, supportive and very accessible.
The pay ranges from £60 per hour for weekdays to £80 per hour at weekends. Indemnity is paid for by Doctor Care Anywhere, saving me at least £1000 per year. I was keen to find portfolio work where indemnity was paid, as I was already paying high indemnity fees each year for my salaried job.
My biggest concern when I started was not being able to examine patients. This has not been as challenging as I expected, partly because the patients are effectively triaged to pick up potential emergencies when the appointment is booked, and also because it is possible to gather a lot of information from the patient via video and photos.
Most patients have private medical insurance so it is straightforward to refer them to a GP or specialist for a face to face consult if needed. I have seen a few patients where I’ve felt that they really needed to see a doctor the same day, and after explaining my reasoning and how to contact the out of hours GP service they were very understanding.
Overall telemedicine works really well for me as part of a portfolio career. I also do out of hours work and teaching, and I am studying for a certificate in medical education. It complements my salaried job well as I see quite different patients and problems in each role. Most DCA doctors also work in a clinical capacity elsewhere.
Working flexibly from home is extremely convenient and the patients are very appreciative of the service. The pay is good, especially considering I don’t spend any time travelling or need to pay indemnity. It’s lovely to have enough time to talk to patients in the longer appointments and reliably finish shifts on time. I’m sure online consultations will continue to grow in popularity so I feel gaining experience in this area will be useful throughout my career.
Any advice for those seeking work as a virtual consultation GP?
My advice to GPs considering virtual consults would be:
- Check with the company how patients are triaged – are appointments triaged according to presenting complaint or can patients book in with anything? How will you arrange for a patient to see someone face to face if needed? It’s essential to feel that you can practice safely and are supported to do so.
- A surprising amount can be managed online, using photo and video to gather information, and with strict safety netting and follow up. Because patients can easily book appointments, they will consult again if they are not improving as expected.
- Set up a desk area with a notebook, pen, BNF and drink, so you have everything you need to hand. I also have the NHS pharmacy finder open on my computer.
- Try it! – I really love being able to work from home.
Doctor Care Anywhere is experiencing unprecedented growth and range of flexible opportunities for qualified GPs to join their business and while working from home around other personal and work commitments.
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