• Is this going to lead to a lot more patients getting in touch with the practice?

Whilst we've made the form accessible for patients, practices who have tracked patient contact throughout rollout have found that phone calls are replaced with online access, but total requests haven't gone up. However, we recognise this as a valid concern.

We'd recommend that practices who are nervous about this go for an incremental roll-out with patients to build confidence in the new process. For example, some practices put the link on their website but don't promote it largely at the beginning. It's less likely a lot of patients will use Patient Triage at once if it is not advertised. Then, once a practice has built confidence they then share Patient Triage with more patients through methods such as batch texts.

  • What can we do to redirect patients / local sign-posting?

~10% of patients will choose to see online advice rather than submit a request, and patients requesting repeat prescriptions can be redirected to other online services if you already use them. We recommend saving custom templates with local advice to common questions.

  • Why doesn't Patient Triage use AI or algorithms?

From our research, we have found that AI can over-triage patients - i.e. send far more people to urgent services / A&E than what is needed or appropriate. At the moment, we don't think anything can replace a human's ability to triage, so we are focused on trying to make this process as quick and efficient as possible. For example, some requests can be dealt with by a quick text response with an information link, rather than the patient making an appointment.

We want to make sure that we gather sufficient information from the patient and the patient understands this information is relevant to the query to avoid patients giving up or calling the practice anyway if they don't understand or get an outcome they expect.

  • Do requests get coded?

Yes. Requests are saved to the record in free-text (so are easily searchable) and are coded with the SNOMED code: "eConsultation via online application"

  • Will this integrate with the NHS app?

Yes, we are planning on integrating with the NHS app. We've started the process already, so we'll update as this progresses.

  • What safety features are there?

Patients are advised that Patient Triage is not for urgent queries, as requests might not be seen by the practice for a number of working days.

Patients are directed towards 111 or 999 services for more urgent requests, and there is a customisable option to switch on an 'out of hours' message, which directs patients to local out of hours services outside of 08.00 - 18.00h, weekends, and Bank holidays (this article explains how).

Before submitting a medical or admin request, patients must confirm they have no 'red flag' symptoms. If they do, they are advised to seek more urgent medical attention, and they cannot proceed to submit a request

Upon submission, patients are reminded that the practice may not see their requests for the defined amount of time, and advised to seek more urgent medical attention if they deteriorate

  • What do we do if a request comes through from a patient who isn’t registered at the practice?

It's rare for requests to come through from unregistered patients (<1%). If we've been able to match the patient on the PDS (Spine), we will also display their registered practice to you with their submitted request.

Patients must submit a valid phone number with their request so they can be contacted. We suggest you call or text the patient to let them know they aren't registered at your practice; if you are concerned, you could also let their practice know they have contacted you.

We try and minimize the risk of this by showing the practice name and address all the way through the flow in the header. If you see this happening a lot, try to understand where these unregistered patients are getting access to your link.

  • How should we process forms that cover multiple issues at once?

This will depend on the information you have available. If you feel that you have enough information about each issue then you could action each one as if they were separate requests. If you feel you need more information, you could send the patient a response link asking them to expand on their issues or ask them to submit a new Patient Triage request.

If this becomes a regular occurrence, you might wish to add a line on your website asking patients to submit a separate request for each issue.The advantage of seeing this through Patient Triage is it isn’t a surprise so can be managed rather than the patient coming to a face to face appointment with more than one problem in one appointment slot.

  • What about IG/GDPR?

You can start using Patient Triage straight away as it’s covered by our latest Terms & Conditions and Data Processing Agreement. We make all IG resources available in our Resource Centre here

  • Is it NHS approved?

Yes, Patient Triage has been assessed by NHS Digital and meets the requirements for an online consultation solution on the GP IT Futures framework. These requirements are aligned to the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) framework.

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