Tackling health inequalities is one of NHS England’s top 10 priorities, as outlined in its 2022/23 NHS England operational planning guidance.
The guidance states that the NHS will “Continue to develop our approach to population health management, prevent ill health and address health inequalities – using data and analytics to redesign care pathways and measure outcomes with a focus on improving access and health equity for underserved communities.”
In a new whitepaper recently published in partnership with Computer Weekly, we take look at health inequalities in primary care and how a digital solution can help tackle the issue.
Here are some of the key findings outlined in the whitepaper.
How can a digital solution help reduce health inequalities?
The health inequalities whitepaper explores various ways in which technology can help support patients who may have previously struggled to access and receive primary care.
And although online consultation solutions were made more widely available during the Covid-19 pandemic, many GP practices had to implement their digital systems quickly, without necessarily having the luxury of exploring solutions which include functionalities that help reduce health inequalities.
Three factors examined in Computer Weekly’s whitepaper include the use of artificial intelligence, free-text functionality and video capabilities. All three are potentially beneficial in supporting more equal access to primary care. These additional functionalities better accommodate patients who may still struggle to access the care they need when using an online consultation system.
Artificial intelligence has the benefit of flagging urgent requests and triaging them appropriately, so patients who need quicker responses are prioritised over less urgent queries.
The whitepaper notes research findings around the use of artificial intelligence (AI), where 94% of urgent requests were picked up when using AI compared to 80% typically identified by a GP themselves.
Dr Ben Brown from Langworthy Medical Practice and the University of Manchester explains “A digital consultation system that has AI built into the DNA of the software and the architecture will have feedback loops throughout. This can help the GP and staff identify urgent requests and focus on addressing health inequalities and priorities.”
Computer Weekly’s whitepaper also considers how digital solutions utilising free-text and translation functionality during the appointment booking processes, encourages fairer access to primary care. These factors particularly support patients for whom English is not their first language.
Dr Brown comments “Rather than multiple choice questionnaires, free text gives patients the ability to write in their own words what they want to say. Language translation services also help reduce inequalities.”
The paper also notes that 75% of GPs were able to offer video consultations within the first two months of lockdown in 2020, a dramatic increase from only 10% previously.
Online consultations are especially beneficial to patients with physical disabilities and those living in rural areas, as they have an alternative to visiting their GP practice in person, saving them time and resource.
The whitepaper mentions that a system that offers built-in video consultations is an advantage. For general practice staff and patients alike, being able to communicate using different methods in one system, such as SMS text and image uploading alongside video calls, means that all types of preferences and accessibility options are available to all using the service without having to rely on additional software.
To read the whitepaper in full, visit Health inequalities in Primary Care whitepaper
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PATCHS is an online consultation solution that employs functionality to help tackle the issue of health inequalities in primary care, through artificial intelligence, free-text questions, and video communication.
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