The events of 2020 have expedited the use of health-tech and in particular digital triage more than anyone could have predicted. What has been fantastic is the overwhelming acceptance of these tools, that have been around for a relatively short time, have never seen use like this.
We speak to Dr Mark Harmon, NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur and Brand & Strategy Director at eConsult to find out how health tech is helping the NHS both survive and evolve during these turbulent times and what we can expect in the future.
Health tech keeping the NHS afloat
eConsult and eTriage, is a leading online consultation company serving over 28 million patients across England. In February, the company saw over 10 million online consultations and the numbers keep rising as more people are communicating with their GPs remotely.
These online systems enable NHS GP practices and A&E departments across the UK to provide their patients with remote access to safe and secure clinical advice through a combination online and video consultation.
A study carried out in October 2020 found that GP surgeries using Digital Triage had improved general efficiencies, there was better quality doctor/patient time, and a reduction of face-to-face consultations, a very convenient step forward for busy patients.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, digital triage has played a very important role across all NHS healthcare points. In primary care, over 3,200 practices have adopted eConsult enabling patients to continue getting care.
Meanwhile, in emergency care digital triage resulted in similar benefits to both patients and frontline staff. People with potential COVID symptoms were rerouted to more appropriate care facilities quickly, thus reducing the risk of infection. This also helped to maintain a normal flow of patients through emergency care centres.
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Creating a connected, easily accessible healthcare system is key to ensuring patients receive the best care possible. A new collaboration between three leading digital healthcare companies, is enabling GPs to easily share health information videos with patients following an online consultation.
eConsult Health, HCI and Cognitant Group have co-developed an easy way for patients to receive accredited healthcare videos from their GPs.
Up to 27 million patients will have GP-approved video content available to them and relevant to their condition. The videos cover a wide variety of health topics such as maternity, diabetes, contraception, COPD and asthma.
Based on a recent NHSX survey conducted in conjunction with the national Health and Care Video Library, 67.7% of patients responding to an online survey said that the videos they watched saved them the need for further contact with a healthcare professional.
eConsult Health research found that more than 70% of requests are closed without the need for a face-to-face appointment. This collaboration enables GP practices to provide patients with better, targeted information in a more timely manner, often preventing unnecessary surgery visits. The provision of clear, reliable health information to patients contributes towards a better patient experience and helps towards reducing the pressure on practices.
We believe in ‘connected health’ to streamline processes and generally make them better for everyone involved. Healthcare providers around the world are focused on treating, not moving people.
Digital triage has the ability to take this burden away while also connecting data and knowledge with each and every patient. Converting millions of patients’ journeys online first will save countless unnecessary trips, doctor appointments while freeing up clinician time to treat, driving effectiveness, efficacy, efficiency, and driving down costs.
The increased acceptance of digital triage in primary care, along with its implementation in emergency care, will better prepare doctors before any consultation and be instrumental in directing patients entering the healthcare system to the right point of care, first time.
What can we hope to see in the future of NHS?
Digital triage will have an even bigger role to play across the communications between doctor and patient going forward in a post-COVID world. This isn’t limited to primary care, in fact, it should have a huge impact across the whole, interwoven care system.
We are already seeing AI being used for some digital triage services, and this will increase, making systems smarter and more intuitive through increased usage. Of course, AI will enhance the patient journey rather than replace the need for experienced health care practitioners.
Written by Dr Mark Harmon, NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur and Brand and Strategy Director at eConsult