Should GP practices offer online chat?

I’m not sure its everyone’s cup of tea but I like online chat support. You know the little box in the corner of a website that says if you want to speak to us type here. OK sometimes its offline and sometimes you think wouldn’t it be easier just to speak to the person, but sometimes it works well. I don’t have to wait on the phone for ages, even though I get free calls now I’m old enough not to want to hang on for ages. Also while on the phone I cant do anything else, whereas at home I have two monitors and I can be reading email, surfing the net while waiting to be connected or a reply. Also on the phone you often have to hang on listening to their music while they speak to a supervisor or look something up whereas with chat – they can pass you without the connection being lost and you having redial the right extension, you can listen to your own music and you can print off the call or have a copy emailed to you to prove what you and they said.

I’m wondering why GP practices don’t try it? I’m trying to get mine interested in giving it a go. I suspect the hassle of having another source to answer might be putting off reception but by its very nature you can add and remove people from the answering and this shows dynamically. You of course have the problem of someone proving they are who they say they are but this is the same for the phone. We give results out over the phone on production of a name and some other ID. Is this really that secure? Would verifying by Facebook account be better?

With all the £45 Million investment in online GP consultations – I wonder why no one has thought of chat support? Potentially it could even work at scale across multiple practices – have a group of people answering the phone, doing chat. I’ve come across the concept of pharmacy pods where a group of pharmacists handle all the repeat prescription queries from a group of practices, this could help them.