One Health Lewisham adopts virtual health assistant to reduce burden on GPs

Ask NHS app uses Advanced’s clinical decision support technology to improve patient experience and relieve pressure on 38 GP surgeries

One Health Lewisham, a federation of all 38 GP surgeries in Lewisham, has signed a two-year deal with Sensely and its partner, Advanced, to deploy the virtual health assistant app, Ask NHS.

The latest move will enable general practices to better manage patient demand, reducing the burden on, and saving time for, overstretched doctors.

The app will be rolled out across three ‘early adopters’ – ICO Health Group, Rushed Green and Sydenham Green practices – by the summer and One Health Lewisham anticipates it will initially be used by up to 77,000 patients.

The 35 remaining practices are expected to adopt it by the end of 2018, in time to help reduce the expected rise in pressures on health services during winter.

Ask NHS allows patients to access clinically-validated health guidance and information. It enables patients to check their symptoms, via voice and text; obtain self-care advice; and book or cancel an appointment.

The symptom checker, based on Advanced’s clinical decision support technology, Odyssey, helps determine the urgency of a patient’s case and directs them to the most-appropriate person.

Patients are able to access the application 24/7 at their own convenience and download it for free. They can use their name and date of birth to register and the Ask NHS application links them to the GP practise they are registered with.

The brand name for the use of the application in Lewisham is Ask NHS GP.

Prad Velayuthan, One Health Lewisham chief executive, is leading the project and hopes the application will become a blueprint for general practices in the rest of the UK.

“We see incredible value in technology to empower patients to self-assess and, while it may take some time for some GPs to embrace a disruptive technology, I’m confident the app’s obvious benefits will eventually be accepted and adopted by everyone.

OHL is working closely with Sensely and Advanced to test and shape the application, ensuring it is GP centric and meets the diverse and challenging needs of all staff and patients.

Our technology ensures patients are guided to the right NHS resource, at the right time. This leads to an improved patient experience but, crucially, reduces any unnecessary burden on overstretched doctors

Leading GPs from Lewisham are part of the IT & Innovation steering group closely monitoring the progress as well as the clinical safety of the project.

Adam Odessky, chief executive and co-founder at Sensely, said: “GPs across the country are under phenomenal pressure and One Health Lewisham is no exception.

“All demand on the NHS ultimately funnels down to general practices, so doctors are extremely busy and the demand on reception is relentless.

“Ask NHS GP working in collaboration with primary care will empower the patient and support general practice.

“Through our partnership with Advanced, we will be able to help One Health Lewisham better manage the flow of patient care and place digital access to their local NHS in the palm of their patients.

“Our objective is to support greater efficiency across the whole system by reducing workload while better serving patients.”

Because the application provides patients with on-demand access to NHS services 24/7, and encourages self-care, not every patient will have to see a GP and busy reception staff’s time will be freed up from phone calls too.

Furthermore, Ask NHS GP connects to Lewisham’s GP systems EMIS so, if a patient is advised to have an appointment or is called back for telephone triage, the GP is already aware of the problem and the consultation process is more efficient.

Nick Wilson, managing director of public sector, health and care at Advanced, said: “Our technology ensures patients are guided to the right NHS resource, at the right time. This leads to an improved patient experience but, crucially, reduces any unnecessary burden on overstretched doctors. We want to do everything we can to save them valuable time and free up resources.”

Through our partnership with Advanced, we will be able to help One Health Lewisham better manage the flow of patient care and place digital access to their local NHS in the palm of their patients

The agreement is the outcome of a formal partnership between Sensely and Advanced, with One Health Lewisham as its first customer. The solution, which is on the NHS’s Dynamic Procurement Service (DNS) framework under Advanced, is funded by the GP federation. It also follows the West Midlands Integrated Urgent Care Alliance successfully piloting the app.

Ask NHS provides full technical integration with the NHS111 Clinical Assessment Service, the Directory of Services, EMIS and NHS Choices, as well as being NHS Spine compliant. It uses Sensely’s Learning Engine and Odyssey, the backbone of the app’s symptom checker feature and complies with the clinical safety regulations for software manufacture SCCI 0129.

For use in Lewisham, the ASK NHS GP application will not use the NHS 111 Clinical Assessment Service. One Health Lewisham, under clinical guidance from Advanced, has re-configured clinical outcomes to ensure safe patient access through its GP practices during working hours and through Seldoc, for out of hours.

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