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The Online Booking Experience (OBoE) study

Access to general practice is a major public concern, with patients often complaining about difficulty making appointments. Online booking services offer the option of booking a GP appointment 24/7 using the internet, via a website or app. The Government is keen to promote such services. Although many GP practices now offer online booking, recent surveys show that only a relatively small minority of patients use it, but instead continue to book their appointments on the phone. Until now, research to inform policy about online booking services in general practice has been lacking.

The OBoE Study was a collaboration between the Universities of Warwick and Exeter, funded by the NIHR. The study compares the characteristics of patients according to their use of online booking, examines how this is related to their experience of care and explores what patients think about online booking in general practice, in order to identify potential ways of appropriately guiding patient-focused implementation and use of online booking.

We carried out secondary analysis of the General Practice Patient Survey (a large national survey sent to 2.2 million adult patients per year). During which we examined levels of awareness and use of online booking, as well as the characteristics of those who are, and are not, using online booking. We have also analysed associations between levels of online booking use and experience in relation to quality, accessibility and future intentions.

In the second stage of the study, we conducted a series of semi-structured qualitative telephone interviews to explore patients’ experiences of booking appointments, why patients do and do not use online booking services in general practice, and their experience in relation to quality, accessibility and future intentions.

The study showed that levels of awareness and use of online booking varied according to age, presence of long-term conditions, ethnicity, deprivation and the practice they were registered to. We identified clear explanations behind some of these patterns, but reasons behind other patterns remained unclear. More details about these findings can be found in the downloadable lay summary - see right - and forthcoming publications. Findings have been discussed with members or the public and key stakeholders and presented at conferences.

Funded by: NIHR Research for Patient Benefit

Research team members:

University of Warwick:

Dr Helen Atherton, Warwick - Chief Investigator

Prof Jeremy Dale, Dr Abi Eccles, Graham Roberts, Helen McGowan

University of Exeter:

Prof John Campbell, Dr Gary Abel , Dr Mayam Cano Gomez

Dates: July 2019 – January 31st 2021

OBoE LogoEnquiries: Dr Abi Eccles

a dot eccles at warwick dot ac dot uk

The Lay Summary for the OBoE Study is available from here.