Healthcare tech firms team up on consultation tools for GPs

Three UK companies have combined their digital health technologies into a single remote consultation service for GP surgeries combining triage, video calls, patient messaging and treatment information.

The platform combines eConsult’s digital triage tool – which was added to the NHS app a few weeks ago – with video consultation provided by Q Doctor and Cognitant’s health information service Healthinote.

The three partners claim this is the first time that all these elements have been combined into one remote consultation service available to GPs working in the NHS, and should “ensure patients receive support from the right person at the first point of contact.”

There has been an increase in the use of online consultation tools since the start of the coronavirus crisis, which has led to a massive reduction in doctor’s appointments, but also raised concerns that patients may be missing out on necessary health care.

A report published last month found that just 13% of consultations were carried out by phone in 2019, with 1% conducted via a video call or another digital channel. At the height of the pandemic, well over two-thirds (71%) of consultations were delivered remotely.

The new toolbar is available free of charge to any GP practice currently using eConsult – which applies to around 40% of all NHS practices.

It allows GPs and practice staff to manage the entire patient journey from one screen, reducing the number of steps traditionally taken after a patient completes an online consultation, according to its developers.

Using the approach, patients fill out a questionnaire that is sent to practice staff, who can then respond with advice, a prescription or additional follow-up. That can take the form of a video consultation or email, for example, with supporting information provided by Healthinote.

eConsult chief executive Dr Murray Ellender – who is also a practising GP – believes that starting with remote triage is the best way to eliminate unnecessary steps in delivering care to patients, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.

“With between 70% and 95% of patient issues now being resolved remotely, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen unprecedented adoption of new technologies to help manage the crisis through temporary and fast-tracked approval of healthtech solutions to support and improve direct care,” he says.

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