How might we help general practitioners for children and adolescents to better manage the pressure on health care?
Clinics of general practitioners for children and adolescents face an excessive load, especially in periods with an increased incidence of acute respiratory diseases (autumn and winter months). The goal of the challenge is to relieve pediatric clinics of administration burdens and to educate parents as much as possible so that pediatricians can focus primarily on treating patients who really need it.
The desired outcome is the elimination of unjustified visits to pediatric clinics without neglecting health care. There are already many simple and patient-friendly digital solutions in other countries that help parents with the correct diagnosis and treatment of common diseases, for which a visit to the ambulance is not necessary, or direct them to the correct procedure in finding suitable care. Slovak patients and doctors are open to developing and adopting similar solutions too.
Slovakia has the largest number of clinic visits per person in the entire EU. Part of the visits stems from poorly set processes (e.g. until recently, the requirements for prescribing medicines, or the non-existence of electronic services such as e.g. sick leave). However, some of the visits are due to the fact that patients are not sufficiently educated, have an exaggerated fear for their health, or abuse services that are practically free. This situation is particularly prominent among general practitioners for children and adolescents (GP CA), as children are a sensitive topic for the whole society (1). At the same time, the average age of GP CA in Slovakia is very close to the retirement age, which is currently causing interruptions in the availability of services and we are in danger of a significant worsening of the situation in the coming years (2).
In order to reduce the burden and prevent unjustified visits, Slovak pediatricians have created a website (https://pediatridetom.sk), the aim of which is to reduce the number of avoidable visits, whether in clinics or emergency services, through education and simple self-diagnosis. Compared to the possibilities, scope or services provided by similar websites abroad, however, there is a lot of room for its optimization, and thus also a reduction in the number of visits to pediatricians.
It is important for patients to be able to receive correct answers and verified information as quickly as possible, or to be able to seek medical care in urgent cases as soon as possible. Doctors prepare various informational materials for patients in different forms (e.g. short articles, interactive leaflets, PDF publications, short videos, etc.), which are distributed over several sources and portals. Parents thus often lose time and are frustrated by searching for the right information across different sources and often prefer to call their child’s GP CA or go straight to the emergency room.
It is important for doctors to be able to provide patients with up-to-date information as directly as possible and not to waste a lot of valuable time that they can spend with patients (e.g. a doctor does not have time to write blogs and create information leaflets or to communicate with patients via social media). GP CAs play a very important educational and informative role in their communities and are considered the most reliable source of medical information for their patients.
Digital technologies and innovations create great possibilities for addressing the needs of both groups. New generations of parents already use different technologies and resources, and doctors are increasingly open to approaching their patients through the digital world in order to increase the efficiency of their work and improve the quality of care.
Challenge Vision – Helping the GPs with managing the overloaded demand
Outpatient clinics of general practitioners for children and adolescents are significantly overloaded in Slovakia, and many doctors are close to retirement age. If we do not start addressing this challenge quickly, we are at risk of a major healthcare crisis.
The goal of the challenge is therefore to minimize unnecessary visits to general practitioners’ clinics for children and adolescents without neglecting health care.
How can we help general practitioners for children and adolescents better manage the pressure on health care?
The solutions should focus on (targets):
- Help for parents in identifying whether and under what conditions a visit to a pediatrician is necessary
- Simple guidance of parents through the patient’s journey in healthcare in the most common cases and demands for GP CA
- Help for parents in finding the nearest available care (e.g. up-to-date information about doctors’ representatives, ambulatory emergency service, emergency care or emergency pharmacy, etc.)
- Average waiting times in a given hour for AES and other
- Interactive maps with capacitive throughput (e.g. colour-coded)
- Quick accessibility – Improvement / integration of current solutions so that they can be used as best as possible for parents and patients (quick accessibility and effective retrieval of important information, “smart” use of current communication channels, etc.)
- Effective education of parents about current trends in care and prevention
Solutions should avoid (non-targets):
- AI-based self-diagnostic tools that have no proven diagnostic relevance
- Telemedicine solutions (e.g. applications for reporting the patient’s health status)
- Alder Hey launches new symptom checker for children’s health
- Alder Hey Symptom Checker
- Cough and Cold
- Project Health Villages – innovative digital approach to empowering and educating communities
- Healthier Together
- Aplikácia AMBULANCIA pre poskytovateľov – Communication of doctors with the municipalities
- Rozpisy služieb ambulantnej pohotovosti (lekárskej služby prvej pomoci) – resources of the municipalities
- Protal Nájdi lekára (Find your doctor)
- Narodný portál zdravia – The national portal for healthcare with the most relevant information (by MoH)
- Informácie o fungovaní APS – Emergency outpatient care provided by the municipalities