Practice case studies
Stewart Townsend, B Newbold
- Single-site independent practice, nine days testing a week and performing around 250 GOS sight tests a month
- Running the online system since September 2019.
Stewart Mitchell (Eyecare)
- Single-site independent practice, with a mix of GOS and private, with around 50 GOS1 a month
- Running the online system since August 2019.
Following the rollout of online payments, a range of advantages have been identified that reflect the various
For any business, making an important financial, regulatory or technical transition will involve time to prepare and adjust before making the leap.
One much-anticipated change for the optical profession last year was the launch of Primary Care Support England’s (PCSE) electronic General Ophthalmic Services (eGOS) system. OT caught up with two optometrist practice owners to find out what their experience of using the system has been like, and why they are encouraging peers to make the switch.
Seeing the benefits in action
Optometrist Stewart Townsend explained that his practice, B Newbold, has had eGOS since September 2019 and was an original pilot site for the Optix eGOS system, which is one of a number of eGOS solutions created by practice management system (PMS) providers for their customers.
He told OT: “From the beginning, it was clear Optix had really thought about how to implement this and make it seamless. The workflow of the eGOS system is straightforward and managed with a few clicks. It took about half a day for the whole practice team to be comfortable with all aspects of the system.”
Optometrist and AOP Councillor, Stewart Mitchell, explained his practice uses a PMS that is not optometry-specific, so needed to use PCSE Online when he moved to electronic payments. Representing the AOP and small businesses on the PCSE Core User Group, the practice initially used the online service for GOS1 and 3 forms. The success of the system now means that the practice submits all GOS forms using PCSE online.
Without question, eGOS has improved the running of the practice. It is easier to use, easier to administer and we get paid in a timely fashion and are able to reconcile that payment
Following the rollout of online payments, a range of advantages have been identified that reflect the various needs that different users have for the system. For Mr Townsend, the Optix integration means he is now fully aware of rejected claims “more or less instantly, and these are usually when the optometrists have not coded an early sight test.”
He added: “The time and resources saved by not using and checking paper GOS1 forms is significant. Not having to print, check and post is a great efficiency. The ability to batch-sign many forms at once is a bonus.”
Mr Mitchell highlighted to OT that PCSE Online works well for patients too. “In the past, when a patient who was GOS-eligible booked an appointment we had to prepare a paper form. Now, we add the patient’s details and eligibility reasons on to the online equivalent. The patient then simply signs an electronic declaration on a touchscreen in a way similar to signing for a parcel from a courier. Patients are impressed with the electronic forms – it shows we are moving with the times.”
Mr Mitchell explained that a key advantage for practices of PCSE Online is that it is not possible to submit a GOS that is not complete. “If you forget to tick a box and the patient signs, you can’t progress to the next page of the online form. The errors need to be corrected prior to the patient re-signing the form. Once submitted it will be accepted for payment.”
Staff not being taken off the shop floor to have to hand in signed-for post at the nearest post office is another benefit, he said.
Patients are impressed with the electronic forms – it shows we are moving with the times
While highlighting that using the online system may require the practice to invest in the purchase of a tablet, Mr Mitchell recommends shopping around. “We sourced two Acer Aspire Switch tablets online, which have 11-inch screens and run Windows 10. These have been a great buy.”
Reflecting on the payment model, Mr Townsend explained eGOS is not only easier to use, but also helps with cashflow. “Every month we have had an email three to four days before our payment date informing us our statement is ready. We log into the improved PCSE portal and the statement is there telling you what you are going to be paid. You can export a detailed list and then reconcile it within Optix. This has improved our cash flow and accounting. You can also toggle whether you want to pay voluntary levies or not.”
He added: “The PCSE portal has been improved and so you can order supplies, make performer list changes and see your GOS payments all in one place. I find it easy to use and navigate. If you can use a PMS, you can you use this.”
Online GOS: The facts and figures
- To date, nearly 300 stores are already signed up to the electronic claims system. PCSE expect to see a marked increase throughout in the spring as pilots are ramped up into the full roll-out programmes
- PCSE processes in the region of 18 million GOS claim forms annually. Stacked on top of each other, that would equate to a paper tower that was higher than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai
- As of 4 March 2020, PCSE had over 60,000 online claims submitted since launch, most of which have been made in the first two months of 2020
- Taking claims online can have a massive environmental benefit – an annual saving in CO2 emissions that’s the equivalent to driving an average sized car non-stop for three years, running an optical store for nearly 50 years, or having one energy-saving lightbulb continuously lit for more than 500 years.
Easy to run, easy to administer
For Mr Townsend, the benefits of making the move to eGOS looked obvious in principle – but the system delivers on that promise.
“We were a very early adopter of eGOS in England and were very keen to use it. We had very few concerns going into the project because we could only see the upsides: less paper, less admin, lower costs. All of these considerations turned out to be true,” he said.
Mr Townsend concludes: “Without question, eGOS has improved the running of the practice. It is easier to run, easier to administer and we get paid in a timely fashion and are able to reconcile that payment.”
For those practices reluctant to use electronic claims, Mr Mitchell’s assessment is straightforward. “It is essentially a GOS form but online. The PCSE online GOS1 forms are great,” he said.
Mr Townsend added that the Optix PMS environment is “easier, quicker and more efficient than the system it replaces. We have not found any negatives and wouldn’t dream of going back.”
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