The recent rush to deploy Online Consultation solutions in GP practices across England has highlighted how confusing the market can be when choosing the right solution for your practice.
There are 34 different solutions currently available on the DPS framework alone, all offering various approaches to connecting patients digitally with their GP practice.
Total Digital Triage
NHS England has recommended that practices adopt ‘Total Digital Triage’ to help protect patients and GP practice staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. The advice has guided practices towards Online Consultation methods for triage before appointments are made, reducing the requirement for patients to attend in person.
To do this, practices need a system that is easy for patients to use, robust enough to handle hundreds of requests at a time and allows GP practice staff to prioritise and workflow digital patient contacts in real-time. However, Total Digital Triage also requires a practice to implement significant changes in how they operate. Are practices ready?
What type of solutions are out there and what is the best fit for your practice?
An alternative to Total Digital Triage is to use Online Consultations as an add-on to your existing process and to use it alongside telephone access for patients. This may be a good first step for many practices. It is also important to consider the user friendliness of a solution - if it is not easy to use then patient take up will be low and they will continue to contact their practices through traditional methods.
Online Consultation solutions generally fall into four main categories:
- Those that allow patients to enter free text to describe their condition or request
- Templated solutions with question sets that can be particularly time consuming for patients to complete
- Customisable solutions where practices can define their own question sets for patients
- Automated triage tools that attempt to reduce practice workload by automatically signposting patients to alternative methods of care.
Choosing the wrong solution will not only result in an ineffective Online Consultation process but will deny patients the convenience that a good solution offers.
What about video consultation solutions that are already in use?
Video consultation is a way for a GP to consult with their patient ‘face-to-face’, without having any physical contact. Many Online Consultation tools integrate video consultations directly with triage and workflow tools. However, if practices have video consultation and text messaging solutions these should be able to be used alongside each practice’s choice of online consultation, and they should complement each other.
Why we are working with a new entrant to the market
Advanced and Spectra Analytics, in partnership with The University of Manchester, have worked together for over two years to develop technologies to drive efficiencies in Primary Care. Together in partnership they have recently developed PATCHS – a new online consultation solution that integrates with our Docman 10 solution.
PATCHS has been developed with the help of GPs and academics, alongside deep engagement with patients and practice staff. Four simple free text questions and a user-friendly interface has made it popular with both practices and patients alike. The solution allows patients to quickly and easily use their own words to describe their problem and also allows them to upload images to attach to their request.
PATCHS can be used to implement Total Digital Triage from the outset, but is also designed to be used by practices as a complementary service for patients if sites are worried about taking the leap too quickly.
The solution - which will in the future use Artificial Intelligence to automatically triage and workflow patient requests to the most appropriate health care professional - will save staff and patients time. It will also allow patient requests to be prioritised quickly and safely according to clinical need.
If you are responsible for purchasing systems for GP practices, and are looking at alternative solutions, The University of Manchester Research Team can help you evaluate your current or prospective solutions while trialling PATCHS. This ensures that you have objective evidence as to which solution is best for your practice and patients. It is important that you have this information to aid in your purchasing decision once the Online Consultation trial periods end.
Advanced customers can trial PATCHS for free until March 2021, with no commitment to proceed after this date. PATCHS has also been accepted onto the new GPITF buying catalogue.