Monthly Archives: July 2023

Digital priorities for improving primary care

As the healthcare landscape evolves, it is becoming clearer that digital technologies are increasingly crucial to improving patient outcomes, efficiency and access to services. But which are the most important? Explore our latest blog, where we discuss digital priorities for improving primary care in 2023. 

Primary care provided by the NHS plays a pivotal role in providing essential healthcare services. To optimise these, digital priorities need to include better interoperability, improved patient services and access, upgraded core systems and expanded back office and coordination tools.

Interoperability: Advancing Integrated Healthcare

Interoperability can be defined as a seamless exchange of data between different systems and healthcare providers, ensuring that patient information is readily available and accessible when needed.

In the context of UK primary care, interoperability plays a growing role in advancing integrated healthcare, enhancing care coordination and optimising patient safety.

Patient data needs to be integrated across various primary care practices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities to enable a comprehensive understanding of patients’ medical histories and ongoing treatments. 

Digital priorities for improving primary care

With this in place there is a better chance at a holistic approach to healthcare delivery, reducing redundant tests and improving patient outcomes.

Interoperability working at its best facilitates efficient communication between primary care providers and specialists, enabling timely consultations and coordinated care plans. 

This, in turn, reduces the risk of medical errors, streamlines referrals and ensures patients receive the right care at the right time.

When it comes to medication management, if interoperable systems can enable real-time access to patients’ medication histories, allowing primary care practitioners to avoid potential drug interactions or adverse reactions, this will promote medication safety.


Patient Services and Access: Empowering Patients in their Healthcare

Empowering patients and promoting active involvement in their healthcare journey is a crucial aspect of modern primary care. Digital solutions can significantly enhance citizen services and access, enabling patients to manage their health effectively and access care whenever required.

If patients can be provided with secure and user-friendly online access, such as through our Foundation sites, GP practices can offer convenient access to medical records, lab results, appointment scheduling and prescription refills. 

Together with the NHS App, dedicated websites for surgeries can promote transparency and facilitate two-way communication with patients.

The ability to use phone or video consultations can be a way of offering patients greater accessibility, especially those living in remote or underserved areas. 

Digital priorities for improving primary care

It also reduces the burden on physical facilities, easing the strain on resources. It was the drive to reduce the pressure on practice receptions which was an inspiration in the creation of Silicon Practice’s FootFall sites, now in use at hundreds of practices across the UK.

Foundation builds upon the success of FootFall, overwhelmingly meeting new benchmarks* laid down by the NHS, which is seeking to make surgeries’ websites increasingly user-friendly. This extends to consistency in appearance and functionality.

Another aspect are health apps and wearable devices. As these become more widely adopted, patients can monitor their health metrics in real time and share the data with their primary care providers. 

Increased use of data can lead to early detection of health issues and the more preventive measures can be implemented, the more the NHS can save on costly treatments.

Upgrading and Improving Core Systems: Future-proofing Primary Care

To harness the full potential of digitalisation, UK primary care needs to focus on upgrading and improving core systems that form the backbone of healthcare operations. 

As increasing patient confidence in security is a key part of improving uptake, the NHS will continue to ramp up cybersecurity measures in tandem with data privacy protection legislation.

Cyber attacks – often ‘ransomware’ incidents where gangs or individuals hijack parts of the system – are an ongoing danger.

In May 2021, hospitals in Ireland lost access to records because of a cyber attack. There was a major disruption to services, and some medical equipment was put out of action. It took until September of that year to get 95% of servers and devices functioning normally again. 

Improving the security of devices and personnel is a never-ending process. Imperial College London’s Cyber Report 2020 stated that outdated and unsupported IT infrastructures and medical devices increase NHS vulnerabilities.

Digital priorities for improving primary care

Among core systems that have to be protected and upgraded are electronic health records (EHRs), practice management software and clinical decision support tools:

  • Electronic Health Records (EHRs): Transitioning from paper-based records to EHRs streamlines data capture, storage and retrieval, enabling quick access to patient information. EHRs enhance clinical decision-making, reduce administrative burdens, and improve patient safety by reducing errors related to handwritten records.
  • Practice Management Software: Efficient practice management software automates administrative tasks such as appointment scheduling and inventory management. Time and resources saved can be allocated to patient care.
  • Clinical Decision Support Tools: Implementing clinical decision support systems assists healthcare providers in making evidence-based decisions at the point of care as soon as possible. These tools can provide alerts for potential drug interactions, highlight best practices, and recommend appropriate screenings, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes.


Back Office and Coordination Tools

While patient-facing services are essential, streamlining back-office operations and coordination among healthcare teams are equally crucial in achieving efficient and effective primary care services.

  • Data analytics tools allow primary care providers to derive valuable insights from patient data, enabling evidence-based decision-making, identifying trends, and predicting patient needs. Analytics can drive quality improvement initiatives and enhance population health management.
  • Implementing appointment management systems with automated reminders and waitlist management reduces no-show rates and optimises clinic schedules, leading to better resource utilisation and improved patient satisfaction.
  • Care Team Collaboration Platforms are vital for seamless care delivery. Utilising dedicated platforms for care coordination allows healthcare professionals to share information, discuss cases and coordinate patient care efficiently.



By prioritising interoperability, patient services and access, core system upgrades, and back office and coordination tools, primary care can deliver better outcomes, increased efficiency and improved patient experiences to the UK population.

One of the first things a practice can do is have a Foundation site, expected to achieve a 98% rating of the top NHS benchmark at launch. Contact us to find out about Foundation

You can follow Silicon Practice on Linkedin.

*Foundation sites are expected to achieve a 98% rating of the top NHS benchmark at launch

NHS benchmarks raising quality of GP websites

Written by Bruno Clements

NHS benchmarks raising quality of GP websites

NHS benchmarks are a clear target for a website provider to aim for as they strive to improve the digital experience for patients. In this blog, we take a look at the standards which are expected and how Silicon Practice measures up.

In today’s digital age, access to healthcare services should be inclusive to everyone, regardless of digital skills or proficiency in English.

Patients increasingly expect to be able to find online information about urgent and routine appointments, prescriptions, to book or change an appointment and receive test results.

And, for patients with poor digital and English skills, the accessibility of GP surgery websites plays a crucial role in ensuring they can navigate and access essential healthcare information.

NHS benchmarks raising quality of GP websites

Going where you want on a healthcare website should never be confusing or frustrating so, to ensure that GP practices are making their online presence welcoming, NHS England has now created a website benchmarking and improvement tool.

The Excel-based tool is based on the experiences of 102 participants, who were assessed to have low to moderate digital and written English confidence.

Their experience of using 10 GP surgery websites for the seven most important journeys, or tasks for patients, was then analysed. The findings became the basis for the NHS benchmarks.

As well as the need to ensure a website works well on mobile devices, the tool covers overlays and pop-ups, plus details of what patients can expect to find under each page heading.

Sites must work for patients and practice

Once the tool is downloaded, the surgery – or website provider – can click on the ‘Web Audit’ section of the tool and assess how the website is working. A traffic light system makes this easy to understand.

Each action is judged on whether the site does it ‘well’, ‘adequately’ or ‘inadequately’. The results provide a clear roadmap for enhancing user-friendliness, enabling a practice to target improvements where its site is not up to standard.

The tool allows practices, PCNs, ICSs and suppliers to benchmark all or most of the elements needed for a highly usable and accessible website.

Working through the highlighted journeys, or tasks, to create a meaningful set of results is something which would take surgery staff some time.

However, Silicon Practice creates its latest Foundation sites to overwhelmingly* meet the ‘Well’ criteria from the word go.

As soon as a Foundation site is opened, the patient is greeted by the familiar and trusted NHS logo and colours.

‘It is reassuring for patients that they are in the right place when they see these on GP surgery websites,’ notes the benchmark guidelines.

NHS benchmarks raising quality of GP websites

As well as having that crucial NHS ‘look and feel’, achieving the benchmarks means that patients using a Foundation website will find the most important journeys are already highly usable.
Additional priorities, highlighted as ways to help reduce calls or requests to the practice, are also being met on Foundation sites.

Top of this list is joining/registering with the practice, as this is one of the top patient tasks on a GP surgery website.

One of the biggest reasons for phone calls to a practice is queries about fit (sick) notes.

Providing this information and links to the correct forms online, as Foundation sites do, is expected to cut the number of calls patients make to practices.

Standards for a Digital Future

Benefits listed by the NHS for creating a highly accessible and useable GP website include:

  • Improving patient satisfaction and experience, making it more likely they will return and use digital tools.
  • Ensuring patients are signposted to the right place without wasting patient and practice time.
  • Reducing the risk of adding digital inequalities to existing health inequalities.
  • Removing barriers for patients with disabilities.
  • Creating a place where patients can manage tasks, which cuts the burden on NHS staff and empowers patients to manage their health and care.

As well as giving prominence to the site appearance,  so it appears similar to patients who are used to using, the tool highlights that sites must support each of the three ways of finding information: through links on the homepage; an item in the main menu; and using the site search.

As well as the need to ensure a website works on mobile devices, the tool covers the use of overlays and pop-ups.

It spotlights information about routine and pre-bookable appointments, including the differences in the way these may be seen by patients and GP surgeries.

After appointments, the prescriptions page is judged the next most important to patients accessing a GP surgery’s website.

To reach the ‘Well’ benchmark, an appointments page must be provided, with a clearly labelled section headed ‘urgent appointments’.

There must also be a clear explanation of all options available and how to access them.

Clear instructions on how to change and cancel an appointment are needed, along with links to make a cancellation without phoning the surgery.

Silicon Practice targets NHS benchmarks

Also crucial is the perception of patients and the language used by healthcare staff. Research shows that patients don’t recognise ‘online consultation’, so the latest Silicon Practice Foundation sites, such as at Halesowen Medical Practice, head this section ‘Contact Us Online’.

The NHS benchmarks are a touchstone for Silicon Practice, so you can rest assured that if you are using a Foundation site, these are continually being reviewed to be as welcoming to patients as possible.

NHS benchmarks raising quality of GP websites

One of our priorities is meeting the highest possible WCAG Accessibility guidelines so that disabled patients are not excluded from digital resources and convenience. 

If you want a site which is being rigorously assessed against NHS benchmarks, contact us to find out about Foundation.

Meeting these standards now builds a strong foundation for the digital experience patients will have in the coming decades.

Silicon Practice will, of course, continue to make further improvements as websites evolve and benchmarks are updated.

You can follow Silicon Practice on Linkedin.

*Foundation sites are expected to achieve a 98% rating of the top NHS benchmark at launch

NHS benchmarks raising quality of GP websites

Written by Bruno Clements