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In the hot seat

GP BuddyFor a busy GP, any tool that can save time and labour is valuable. Charlotte Hudson chats with Dr Darach Ó Ciardha about the launch of GPBuddy.co.uk and its benefits for GPs and patients

GPBuddy.co.uk, designed by Dr Shane McKeogh and Dr Darach Ó Ciardha – both practising GPs themselves – is a free online medical directory, initially aimed at London and South-East based UK health professionals, helping GPs find the private medical professionals and services they require, at the touch of a button.

Launched in September 2013, GPBuddy.co.uk is partnered with NB Medical and is the sister site of GPBuddy.ie – which was launched in May 2010 and has more than 2,100 members. Dr Ó Ciardha explains: “Shane and I have forged a close relationship with Drs Simon Curtis and Phil Nichols who head up NB Medical, through their activity in Ireland with the extremely popular Hot Topics series.

“As a GP, Simon was impressed at what we had to offer to GPs in Ireland and felt that a version of GPBuddy in the UK could help some GPs get to grips with the breadth of private consultants and services, particularly in the London area. We spoke to UK GPs about their needs and realised that a comprehensive and easily searchable database would be of use, when seeking to refer a patient for a private specialist consultation.

“The online directory helps GPs be more organised, and prevents the scrambling around in drawers for a number on a piece of paper.” Dr Ó Ciardha says the team feel that patients benefit too, through more specific referral choices by their GP – GPBuddy.co.uk will enable them to explore the most suitable and convenient options on behalf of their patients.

If you’re able to shave a minute or two off your tasks and if that’s repeated a couple of times over the course of the day, there are clear time-saving benefits

GPs can search the comprehensive database for consultants via their special interests as well as their location – essentially it will save GPs time. It is free for both GPs and consultants to list their profile on GPBuddy.co.uk, and consultants can opt to pay for an enhanced listing should they choose to do so.

“GPBuddy.co.uk can make the difference in terms of preventing you being stuck on hold if you’re trying to get through to a hospital,” says Dr Ó Ciardha. “You can get the information in a couple of seconds as opposed to two or three minutes. If you’re able to shave a minute or two off your tasks and if that’s repeated a couple of times over the course of the day, there are clear time-saving benefits.”

The website has taken off well so far, with more than 300 members – and it only launched four months ago. Dr Ó Ciardha says this number is growing every day.

Educational material

NB Medical, led by Dr Simon Curtis, an Oxford-based GP, run the ‘Hot Topics’ GP Update course at multiple UK-wide locations every spring and autumn. NB Medical take the work out of keeping up-to-date and reviewing all the latest journal evidence and guidelines on various GP-related topics, and present the material in an easily digestible format, which counts towards the annual CPD requirements for appraisal.

Dr Ó Ciardha says: “We have added other useful features to our platform in Ireland, including discussion forums, an events section and educational resources including consultantled video tutorials. As is the case in Ireland, we will listen to the feedback given to us by our UK GP members and add more functionality if there is a demand for new features.”

The important role that social media plays in the dissemination of information cannot be underestimated

As well as managing the GPBuddy websites, Dr Ó Ciardha is a lecturer in general practice, Assistant Director on the Trinity College Dublin/ HSE GP Training Programme, and a GP. Since 2003, he has been heavily involved with representative and academic activity in Irish general practice. So how does he juggle all of his jobs? “With multiple interests good planning is essential; the best advice I’ve ever had was to keep a list of things to do. I have a scrappy A4 pad I bring everywhere with me!” says Dr Ó Ciardha.

There are currently eight people working on the website, and the team ensure that data is up-todate and that they are there to help troubleshoot any issues any of their members encounter.

Tweet, Tweet

Rather than setting up separate Facebook and Twitter accounts for UK GPs and Ireland GPs, the Facebook and Twitter accounts now cater to both the UK and Ireland, which the team believe, particularly with Twitter, could be a very interesting focal point, enabling UK and Irish GPs to interact.

“The important role that social media plays in the dissemination of information cannot be underestimated,” says Dr Ó Ciardha. “Some commentators have suggested that 2014 will be a tipping point, where for the first time, the majority of medics will be internet-savvy.”

Still to come

The GPBuddy.co.uk team are exploring ways of using the connections they build between healthcare professionals to improve the actual referral process, particularly in the area of secure electronic referral.

 

“It’s good to be a part of the conversation that’s happening amongst healthcare professionals and people who are interested in medicine generally,” says Dr Ó Ciardha.

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