An Aberdeenshire medical practice is taking part in a pilot project for online consultations.
The Scottish Government wants to increase the number of GP surgeries offering digital services to patients.
Stonehaven Medical Group is involved in the initiative which is looking at ways of enhancing access for patients through the use of new technology, and assessing how it can make practices more sustainable for the future.
Kris McLaughlin, GP partner at the Stonehaven group, said: “They wanted to look at it from both sides of the coin.
“Is the new programme good for patients and is it good for GP practices?”
The programme was devised by GPs and supported by IT and business experts.
Patients work their way through various online questions and submit the consultation to the practice, where the system is monitored several times a day.
Details are then placed into the patient’s medical notes and the responsibility for dealing with it is then passed to a GP.
The practice guarantees a response by the end of the next working day.
Dr McLaughlin explained: “It means that if a patient requires an appointment, you’ve got a lot more information already, so you can spend your 10 minutes much more effectively.”
The system has been designed with safety as its first priority with red flag warnings.
If patients answer a question which puts them into a higher risk category, they are not allowed to progress with the questionnaire and are advised to seek urgent medical advice.
The project has been supported by the Stonehaven surgery patients’ participation group and has been popular with patients.
Local councillor Dennis Robertson said: “This is the community moving forward into the new world. It’s about patient choice – people don’t have to use it.
“It doesn’t take away the option of going in and seeing your GP. But it’s there for people who can or would like to use it.
“It surprises me how many in the older generation are actually IT savvy.
“But for those that aren’t, perhaps we need to look at providing that in the community.
“It’s a new way of doing things and I think we need to embrace that. It has my full backing.”