Health Tech Awards 2021 finalists: Best Use of Digital in Primary Care

Our countdown to the Health Tech Awards 2021 has begun. The award winners will be revealed in just over a month’s time on 7 October 2021. But – until then – we’ve got lots of awards content to keep readers riveted.

We’re taking the next four weeks as an opportunity to highlight our finalists across all 21 categories, through a series of features that place each entry in the spotlight. You can keep track of all the ideas and innovations through our dedicated channel.

In our latest awards feature, we focus on the best uses of digital within primary care. All six of our entrants put forward a compelling case to win in this category, so read on and see which one you would pick as your winner….

X-on – Surgery Connect

X-on and its solution, Surgery Connect, also features in our cloud technologies category. But here we highlight how it is a contender for the best use of digital in primary care, too.

The company specialises in equipping GP practices with cloud technology to boost patient communications through the phone system. The solution helps practices to manage local demand and  national priorities, both of  which can be a challenge to meet if using outdated systems.  Over the past  year,  X-on expanded by more than 35 per cent and Surgery Connect is now deployed in more than 835 GP surgeries, serving an estimated 8.5 million patients across England and Wales.

The system includes unlimited phone lines, call-back, contact centre functionality, real-time management dashboards, automated SM reminders for prescriptions and appointments, self-serve appointments and signposting to self-care and online services,.

Surgery Connect integrates all practice communications, with everything tied to the patient record, and also helps surgeries to offer video appointments. In addition, its “queue busting” feature  enables patients to take a place in the call queue without having to wait on the phone, helping patients to save both time and potential call costs.

Dr Farzana Hussain, an inner-city single-handed GP working with three salaried doctors running a 5,000-patient practice – The Project Surgery – in Newham, East London, said of using Surgery Connect: “I am very conscious of the need to continue to develop the ways in which we communicate with patients.  Surgery Connect offers a great model built around the phone as the key channel supporting delivery of primary care.

“The Project Surgery was looking initially for a flexible phone system to support the management of its practice and delivery of patient care and to help make the practice more efficient. It was particularly looking for additional features such as a recording function and capture of data on call waiting times, which has been a general service issue in Newham.

“Surgery Connect has been crucial in keeping practices open during the pandemic and even when at least 50 per cent of staff were isolating at home, it has enabled practice staff to work remotely, with no impact on care quality.”

Spirit Health – CliniTouch Vie

Next up in this category is Spirit Health and its CliniTouch Vie product, which has been used to remotely monitor patients during the pandemic.

As an example of what the solution can offer, a case study featuring Dr Amit Rama, GP Clinical Lead at Leicester’s Rushey Mead Health Centre, is platformed by the company. Dr Rama has been using Spirit Digital’s CliniTouch Vie remote monitoring solution at two of the practice’s nearby care homes – Rushey Mead Manor Care Home and The New Wycliffe Home, since June 2020.

Dr Rama has been using Spirit Digital’s CliniTouch Vie remote monitoring solution at two of the practice’s nearby care homes – Rushey Mead Manor Care Home and The New Wycliffe Home, since June 2020, to provide continuity of care to their patients. Additional benefits and results include reduced hospital admissions, better use of clinical time and resources, empowered care home staff, and richer patient data, including dementia reviews, mobility and early signs of deterioration.

Using the Spirit Health solution, care home staff were able to take regular vital signs readings and answer patients’ personalised health questions on a smartphone, tablet or computer. These are then provided directly to the GP team, who can remotely connect with carers and patients during the scheduled ward round via video call to provide health and wellbeing advice.

Dr. Rama explained: “CliniTouch Vie asks the resident all the questions beforehand, which can make the consultation a lot quicker and more effective, giving me time back for care where it’s most needed. With this saved time, I can instead focus on improving the quality of the ward round, such as reviewing two or three patients with no acute concern, but those who haven’t been reviewed for two or three months based on a ‘Care Home Frailty Question Set’, which provides the team with additional information including mood, mobility and nutrition.”

In addition, the digital health platform has allowed for more effective triage of patients outside of the scheduled ward round, and it also provides staff with real-time insight into a patient’s observations, symptoms, and condition, with clinical calculations that automatically generate a Red/Amber/Green risk rating presented via a clinician dashboard. This allows Dr. Rama’s team to prioritise vulnerable or high-risk patients in between routine, practice-based appointments, and make an immediate intervention should a patient indicate signs of deterioration.

One Health Lewisham – remote monitoring ehub

One Health Lewisham (OHL), also got in touch to share the impact of its remote monitoring ehub, which uses a digital technology platform – Doctaly Assist – to monitor patients through WhatsApp and provide digitally enabled personalised care at home.

After initially finding success in COVID remote monitoring and rapid assessments, the project is now expanding to patients with long-term conditions. Finding solutions to help member GP practices to manage their workload is a priority area for OHL, and the company says that an ‘innovative use of technology’ in service delivery has been ‘key to helping GPs continue to consult, accurately diagnose, and safely treat patients, all remotely, whilst still achieving Primary Care performance targets’.

Initially implemented as a way of remotely monitoring the symptoms and oxygen saturation levels of patients with a COVID diagnosis, OHL’s utilisation of the Doctaly digital platform over the past 12 months has resulted in three key outcomes: significant reduction of the burden on practices at a busy and challenging time; patients being actively monitored during their illness, at home, providing easy access to the right care at the right time, by the right person; the proactive approach to inviting patients to the service, meant it was possible to support all patients with COVID who wanted it, not just a subset of higher risk patients.

The COVID Remote Monitoring service would search all the practices in Lewisham daily to find new diagnosis of COVID. New patients were invited to be remotely monitored using the platform, which communicates with patients in WhatsApp for up to 21 days following a COVID diagnosis. The service made pulse oximeters available for collection to any patient who didn’t have one, and also provided a delivery system for these, via a team of taxi drivers for those who didn’t have the ability to collect one.

Patients were then contacted by the Doctaly platform, and asked to complete questions on a daily basis, with the answers then assessed by a GP in conjunction with their primary care record. Patients without access to WhatsApp/Doctaly would be phoned instead to ensure equitable access for all.

The success of the project has resulted in expanding to include additional services such as Hypertension QOF Reviews, with diabetes and asthma also expected to be added. While, during the pandemic OHL also expanded ouse of Doctaly to provide access to priority COVID testing for Lewisham Primary Care key workers and their households.

Modality Partnership – MoBots

During the pandemic, Modality Partnership implemented Repeat Process Automation (RPA) solutions to help alleviate operational pressures. The GP partnership set itself the challenge of applying digital workers -called MoBots – across 49 sites and eight regions, and managed to deliver
more than 25,000 hours of work which would otherwise have required manual human intervention.

The MoBots were applied to two functions – email consultation processing and appointment clinic mirroring. The introduction of email consultations as another option for patients was introduced during the pandemic and proved to be extremely popular but the workload required a team member needed to enter the details into practice systems and allocate the work. By automating this process through the MoBots, which could extract pertinent information from the eConsult directly into the patient record, it was easier for staff time to be saved.

The partnership also adapted the MoBots to work with appointment clinic mirroring. As the organisation works with secondary care colleagues to deliver community outpatient services across 15 specialities, for each referral received, a team member needed to manually enter details of the appointment. The high volume task was taking up ‘significant administrative resources’, so the MoBots again took over the function.

To date, the partnership has saved 25,000 hours through the MoBots running those two specific functions, which represents a 200 per cent return on investment.

accuRx – accuBook

After it became clear that GP practices would play a key part in delivering vaccines, alongside mass vaccination centres and jabs in the community, the accuRx software platform built accuBook to help its users manage over 20 million COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Amid the context of ‘unprecedented demand’ for primary care and often limited resources to schedule a large number of inoculation appointments, and vaccination deliveries dependent on availability, the biggest problem was contacting the right patients in specific cohorts at the right time. Without a digital solution, GPs would have to rely on calling patients and sending letters.

In response, accuRx, which aims to improve communication across healthcare teams and with patients, recognised that by being used in 98 per cent of GP Practices it was in a unique position to help.

By mid-December, the company had launched accuBook – a product for GPs to help them invite patients to book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments via SMS and also to record them. It enables practice staff to set up clinic times and capacity, and to upload csv files of patients with their mobile numbers, before sending a text out to each patient with a personalised link for them to book themselves into an appointment time that is convenient for them.

The benefits of accuBook were visible via the numbers: 5,225 GP practices have been using the solution to manage patient vaccine appointments with over 458,000 healthcare professionals using accuBook; at last count, 20,075,536 COVID-19 vaccines had been administered as a result of using accuBook, which was over one third of all COVID-19 vaccinations in the UK at that point, according to the company.

The introduction of accuBook also reduced the administrative burden across the primary care system, with GPs and administrative staff able to avoid telephone calls and letters.

Mendelian  – MendelScan

Mendelian’s entry focuses on bringing early rare disease detection to primary care, through its MendelScan technology, which enables doctors to quickly identify undiagnosed rare diseases, and can result in faster patient treatment and reduced clinical burden.

Mendelian describes its mission as being ‘to end the diagnostic odyssey for rare disease patients within primary care’ by working closely with NHS partners to develop a solution that meets the demands of doctors and patients. The company says that there are around 8,000 rare diseases, which are known to affect around one in 17 people –  meaning 3.5 million people in the UK suffer from a rare disease, with the cost for undiagnosed rare disease cases estimated to cost the NHS 3.4 billion.

For patients the journey to treatment can be long and complex, while in primary care it can be difficult for doctors to recognise the complex range of symptoms. To help tackle this, Mendelscan technology actively works in the background, meaning there is no additional software, and quickly integrates with existing primary care clinical systems, scanning patient health records against clinically validated detection algorithms for 100s of rare diseases. Once detected, patient cases are validated by Mendelian, and then flagged to the GP with a detailed report explaining the condition, and recommended treatment pathways, allowingGPs to decide the best way to help each patient.

MendelScan is currently implemented in over 50 NHS practices and delivering benefits to 1 million patients, with a further roll out to 4 million patients planned in 2021. Mendelian has also been selected as a Primary Care partner to NHS Genomic Medicine Service Alliance (GMSA) to establish a Primary Care to Genetics Screening pathway.

MJog Flagship Programme

Our final entry in this section is theThe MJog Flagship Programme, which brings together ambitious practices from across the UK into a forward-thinking, collaborative, and supportive group.

According to MJog, Flagships are leading the way in shaping and co-designing digital tools that support practice staff and clinicians to deliver improved patient care and outcomes.

Since October last year, over 100 practices across the UK have joined the programme. Every two weeks, Flagship Practices provide feedback on new design iterations and submit ideas for changes or improvements. These changes are fed back directly to user research and development teams, which are then in turn prioritised to be implemented into MJog. The company says that co-design is improving the lives of users and improving the overall quality of care being delivered to patients.

Flagships are helping MJog to build the Essential Practice Platform, described as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for practices and clinicians to run their practice and engage with patients. It’s also hoped that the Flagship Programme will extend even further throughout 2021, bringing together more like-minded practices to ‘help build the digital practice of the future’.