Driving the evolution of doctor-patient communication 

As part of the HTN #HealthTechToShoutAbout feature series, we spoke to X-on to hear more about their work in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Paul Bensley, CEO of primary care communication specialists X-on said to HTN “Before the nightmare of COVID19 engulfed the nation’s healthcare system, doctor-patient communication within primary care was already embarked on an evolution.

“The centrally-driven goal, enshrined within the NHS Long Term Plan, was for “digital-first” primary care, with Primary Care Networks (PCNs) building on pilots to deliver roll-out of online consultations this year, and development of video consultations to follow.

“The current pandemic has simplified much of that debate, requiring a pragmatic assessment by PCNs, GPs and practices as to what the essentials are for effective, remote triage and consultation with patients.

“As strict national measures to manage COVID19 were imposed, GP practices were swamped with calls, putting a huge strain on surgery legacy systems. This and other issues including bandwidth and limited phone functionality when working remotely, a requirement for conference call capability, and a need at speed to set up patient contact centres, were all pinpointed by X-on at the outset as problem areas revealed as a result of the pandemic.

“To address such issues, different package options of X-on’s Surgery Connect phone system – currently used by 600 practices – have been introduced, supported by tailored advice and guidance for practice customers.

“In close collaboration with GPs, a GP@Home service has recently been developed which allows doctors to provide patients with the same level of phone and video care from their own home as from their surgery.

“It has received very positive feedback from senior medical figures who have been “really impressed” with how it can help them work more safely, and allow home workers to answer the phone as if they were in the surgery.

“Amongst features, it enables calls to be made on a personal mobile without call costs being incurred on the personal account, provides a softphone interface for use on a smartphone or laptop, enables a switch to video-on-demand for a consultation with one click, and also for calls to be recorded.

“Practices are being offered a free trial as they grapple with the pandemic.

“Surgery Connect’s Video Connect has been developed too, which also enables GPs to switch from phone to video consultation in a single click on the clinician’s handset, integrated with major clinical systems such as EMIS and TPP’s SystmOne, which are used to hold patient information.

“Unlike many other systems, the patient does not need to download an app, and the doctor does not have to schedule when a video consultation will take place.

“One senior GP and Clinical Commissioning Group Clinical Lead describes it as a “game changing” piece of software that has enabled his practice to perform normally through the current crisis. He says he has been able to assess the clinical condition of a patient confidently through high quality video, saving face to face appointments at the surgery and in turn increasing the access capacity of the surgery.

“To help local and regional co-ordination of the response, X-on is also offering free teleconferencing services to PCNs and CCGs.

“The pace and scale of the digital transformation of the local family doctor has significantly intensified due to the demands of managing COVID19.

“It has highlighted how in the move to digital-first primary care, integrated digital telephony can be the key to supporting effective, safe and modern patient care and should remain a focus in the future.”