Monthly Archives: June 2023

Do digital tools hold the key to GP access plan?

With digital advancements already playing a significant role in improving access to healthcare services and transforming the way patients interact with healthcare providers, now is the time to ask if greater digital use can help meet the ever-growing demand. Explore our blog, where we dive deep into whether digital tools are key to the GP access plan.

NHS England has stated that it wants to achieve greater use of digital technology through its new General Practice Access recovery policy.

This has been backed by the UK government, which aims to provide £240m for primary care to update telephone systems so more calls can be taken, patients clinically assessed and directed to the most appropriate treatment, perhaps a nurse or physiotherapist instead of a doctor. 

Having a modern phone system can only go so far, of course, but the NHSE policy does aim to fund transition cover for those practices which commit to adopting more digital tools and care navigation before March 2025.

The NHS Access Policy has two main aims: to tackle the 8:00 a.m. rush for appointments, which includes the number of people struggling to contact their practice, and for patients to know on the day they contact their practice how their request will be managed.

These goals are needed despite growth in the general practice workforce of 27% since 2019 in a bid to meet rising demand. That came in the face of the number of people in England aged 70 or over up around a third compared to 2010, from 6.1m to 8.1m.

And it is this age group which, on average, has five times more GP appointments than younger generations. 

Do digital tools hold key to GP access plan?

Increasing the number of NHSE staff is costly, of course, so the uptake of digital tools could aid the health service and its users if barriers to use can be removed.

General practice is already delivering more than a million appointments every day – half a million more every week than before the Covid pandemic and the Access Policy aims to support that. 

It’s fair to say that the Access Policy focus on updating phone systems has been met with a certain amount of scepticism from NHS staff, but perhaps looking at this as only a starting point may be the key.

And this is where Silicon Practice comes in. Hundreds of GP practices have successfully used our sophisticated FootFall dashboard to handle patient enquiries for years. 

It has been designed to take the pressure off staff who have been bearing the brunt of frustrated patients after they’ve been waiting in long phone queues.

Forms can be submitted by a patient out of working hours and dealt with by staff according to need – in fact, everything can be tracked online, including phone calls and walk-ins, if the practice decides to adopt the full digital triage way of working.

Now, we’ve built on experience from around the UK to help you create a better digital experience for your patients with Foundation, our latest website front-end design. 

Foundation is consistent with NHS components and has been created to be even easier to tailor to your needs. 

Opening not closing doors

The use of digital devices is increasing across older age groups as generations grow increasingly familiar with them, although healthcare providers must always provide options for those who cannot use or afford a smartphone or tablet.

There are considerable benefits to be reaped by general practice if hurdles such as the digital divide can be minimised.

NHS England currently believes that care navigation could direct over 15% of patients to teams that could better help them.

Our eHub is one way that enquiries can be routed directly to a community pharmacy, physiotherapist or another local service, taking a step out of the process for practice staff. Crucially, the form itself remains traceable by the practice.

Do digital tools hold key to GP access plan?

Integration with the NHS App login – soon to be available through Silicon Practice products – is another major step forward.

For many patients, the App will be seamlessly accessed through a practice website. As its role broadens, they can use it to view clinical records, order repeat prescriptions, see practice messages instead of texts, and manage routine appointments.

Not so remote after all

Remote consultations are still in their infancy, despite the push forward that the pandemic gave. 

Digital platforms enable patients to consult with healthcare professionals remotely, allowing for increased accessibility, especially for individuals with mobility issues or those living in rural areas. Remote consultations can be conducted through video, online, or phone calls.

Do digital tools hold key to GP access plan?

When using Foundation, for example, a clinician can invite patients to a video consultation via SMS or email and take screenshots during the consultation. Our video guide explains further

Although adoption by clinicians and patients has not been high so far, it is still an area with massive potential.

Taking health records online

Digital systems facilitate the creation, storage and sharing of electronic health records, providing healthcare professionals with instant access to patient information. EHRs enhance continuity of care, enable better coordination among healthcare providers and reduce the risk of medical errors.

Foundation enables GP staff to upload directly to the patient record from the dashboard, complete with SNOMED CT coding and after having the patient ID confirmed quickly through the NHS PDS.

Digital platforms can allow patients to schedule appointments online, providing convenience and reducing administrative burdens on both patients and healthcare staff.

Secure online platforms empower patients to access their health records, view test results, request prescription refills and communicate with their healthcare providers. Patient portals enhance patient engagement and encourage self-management of health.

The doctor will see your health stats

Digital health technologies like wearable devices can help patients monitor their health and share data with healthcare providers. This can be particularly useful for managing chronic conditions or post-operative care.

Do digital tools hold key to GP access plan?

Prevention is better than cure 

Digital platforms offer opportunities for delivering health education materials, promoting preventive care, and providing remote support to patients through telemedicine services.

As well as patient acceptance, there will be ongoing issues to cope with, including infrastructure, data privacy and security, training for healthcare professionals, and addressing the digital divide to ensure equitable access for all patients.

Do digital tools hold the key to the GP access plan? What’s the catch?

One of the main findings of a survey commissioned by the NHS Confederation and Google Health was that patients want to use health technology, but this must not come at the expense of face-to-face interaction when needed.

These ensured patients were not excluded from digital access, increasing patient satisfaction and confidence.

The GP Access Plan does offer stepping stones to improvement. However, practices which go beyond the bare minimum in adopting the digital innovations becoming available will be the ones which see the biggest benefits. 

Silicon Practice aims to be at the forefront of providing the platforms needed to meet the growing demands of NHS patients.

For more information about how our digital services could benefit your healthcare practice, contact us

You can follow Silicon Practice on Linkedin

Do digital tools hold key to GP access plan?

Written by Bruno Clements

AI: New healthcare age or hi-tech risk?

AI: New healthcare age or hi-tech risk?

In the UK, AI is making significant strides in revolutionising healthcare practices, improving patient care and driving advancements in medical research. So just what can we look forward to and what are the downsides?

AI algorithms can process massive amounts of data, including medical records, clinical trials and research papers, providing valuable insights that were previously unattainable.

This data-driven approach has the potential to revolutionise medical research, accelerate the development of therapies and ultimately improve population health outcomes.

From diagnosis and treatment to administrative tasks and data analysis, AI is set to play a crucial and growing role in shaping healthcare but it must always be about the power of computing being harnessed – technology can’t run the show.

Remote patient monitoring has already become a reality in UK healthcare. AI-powered wearable devices and sensors can continuously collect patient data, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels and transmit it to healthcare providers in real-time.

AI algorithms analyse this data, alerting healthcare professionals to any concerning trends or abnormalities.

Clinicians must remain in control

Crucially it’s the clinicians who remain in control but the technology enables proactive interventions, reduces hospital re-admissions, and empowers patients to actively participate in their own healthcare management.

At the forefront, of course, will always be the requirement to meet robust regulatory frameworks drawn up by the government and NHS, to preserve patient privacy and trust.

AI: New healthcare age or hi-tech risk?

AI systems rely on vast amounts of sensitive patient data, including medical records and personal information. The improper handling or unauthorised access to this data can lead to privacy breaches and security threats.

Security measures to protect patient data, including encryption, access controls, and regular security audits must be implemented.

Silicon Practice is ISO 27001 accredited and NHS IG Level 2 compliant. Further details of our security policies and measures can be found here.

Here in the UK, it is predicted that AI technology will raise global GDP by seven per cent in the next decade and, with usage in the healthcare industry only recorded at 11.5% by the UK government there is certainly potential for growth.

NEW BLOG: AI: New healthcare age or hi-tech risk?

What does this mean for jobs? Excitingly the same paper, looking ahead as far as 2040, sees spending AI labour ranging from expenditure at £185.2bn by 2040 at an annual growth rate of 7.2% to £456bn at an annual growth rate of 12.1%.

Recognising that security keeping pace with developments in technology will be essential the UK government is to provide £100 million (US$124m) in initial funding for a Foundation Model Taskforce

Its aim will be to support the development of secure and reliable AI models that can be used in healthcare, education and elsewhere.

Using data gathered through AI does run the risk of bias and discrimination.

This happens because AI algorithms can unintentionally perpetuate biases, leading to discriminatory outcomes and healthcare disparities. This can occur due to biased training data or biased decision-making within the algorithm.

Diverse and representative datasets should be used for training AI algorithms to keep biases to a minimum. Regular auditing and monitoring of AI systems are essential to identify and mitigate any biases that may arise. Transparent documentation of the algorithm’s decision-making process can enable scrutiny and accountability.

One of the fears about AI is the lack of the human touch and it is likely that over-reliance on AI systems without sufficient human oversight will lead to errors or missed diagnoses.

Combining expertise with AI capabilities

It is crucial that AI should support healthcare professionals rather than replace them, a collaborative approach that combines the expertise of clinicians with AI capabilities is key to this as is adhering to data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the UK.

Additionally, healthcare organisations should ensure strict data anonymisation and implement strong consent processes for data collection and usage.

Regular training and education of healthcare professionals on AI systems can help them understand the limitations and potential pitfalls of AI technology. Establishing clear guidelines and protocols for the use of AI in healthcare can ensure appropriate human oversight and decision-making.

As decisions are taken based on input from AI this raises legal and ethical questions, including liability for AI-generated errors, accountability for decision-making, and ensuring fairness in resource allocation.

To tackle this healthcare organisations and policymakers should develop clear legal and ethical frameworks. Establishing regulatory bodies and ethical committees can help shape AI policies and ensure compliance with ethical standards.

Collaboration between policymakers, healthcare professionals, AI developers and patient advocacy groups will be essential to strike the right balance.

AI: New healthcare age or hi-tech risk?

Alongside security and ethics comes the acceptance and trust which healthcare professionals will need to have from patients if they are not to opt out of information gathering, which is likely to lessen the accuracy of data being collected.

Open communication with patients about the benefits and limitations of AI in healthcare is vital. Transparency in the use of AI algorithms, including explaining how decisions are made, can help build patient trust. Patient engagement and involvement in AI development and decision-making processes can enhance acceptance and ensure that AI is aligned with patient preferences and values.

By addressing these risks and implementing appropriate mitigation strategies, AI in healthcare can be harnessed responsibly, ensuring patient safety, equity and improved outcomes.

As AI continues to evolve, its impact is poised to be transformative, leading to improved patient outcomes, enhanced research, and a more efficient and effective healthcare system. But this will only happen by recognising and addressing risks of using Artificial Intelligence, and implementing appropriate mitigation strategies.

Silicon Practice fits into this ethos by designing sites which can be set up to make sure that patients get help depending on need or urgency, rather than how long they are prepared wait in a phone queue, and by streamlining workloads for busy staff.

For more information about how our digital services could benefit your healthcare practice, contact us

Written by Bruno Clements