The pressures and challenges faced by primary care are well-documented – but how can digital tools be used to ease those pressures, support primary care staff and help patients to access the care they need? Hear from Lexacom and Think Healthcare, as they detail how they can help.

Lexacom: helping improve health literacy while saving GPs time

Lexacom has been supporting Primary Care with digital technology for over twenty-five years. Starting with digital dictation to replace tape-based recorders, through to cutting edge medical speech recognition software, we have seen how Primary Care has benefited from our time saving voice powered technology, effective document workflows, and in helping patient health literacy.

Comprehension Engine®: Helping improve health literacy.

Recently conducted research found that 89% of UK adults have difficulty understanding written health information. The Citizen Access Program will give patients access to their notes via the NHS app, potentially increasing confusion and anxiety.

Comprehension Engine® was designed by Lexacom to meet this challenge.

With Comprehension Engine® plain English explanations of medical terms are automatically added to the patients’ notes, as the GP dictates or writes them. Making them easier to understand while also saving the GP from having to explain or expand the notes they make.

This use of straight forward language is seen by Health Education England as key in giving patients both the understanding of their condition and the confidence to ask questions of their GP.        

Lexacom Echo: Saving GPs time.

GPs time for patients is compromised by the actioning of administrative tasks after each patient’s visit. Using speech-recognition technology, GPs can save on this administration time. By speaking, rather than typing, they can input information, automatically code (SNOMED and READ) diagnoses and findings, add comments, and create correspondence up to three times faster.

Lexacom Echo has been developed to meet the specific needs of Primary Care, allowing GPs to dictate directly into the Clinical Systems, ICB approved templates including 2 Week Wait referrals, QOF, IIF and Ardens. Plus, patient communication platforms such as AccuRx, and all Microsoft applications. In fact, anywhere that you can place a cursor.

Lexacom Echo: Improving the quality and accuracy of GPs medical notes.

Lexacom Echo is also the only speech recognition software that recognises medical phrases and converts them into detailed descriptions and shorthand, as the GP speaks. Making their notes both more detailed and accurate for healthcare data management.

One Lexacom Echo user stated that their record keeping improved, and medicolegally, their patient notes are now more concise than when they used to type them.

The Future: more time saving, more accuracy, and more integration, with Lexacom.

Lexacom’s digital technology has helped Primary Care continue to deliver in the face of limited resources and growing demand. However, our technology is set to do more. For example, Comprehension Engine® will further aid doctors with voice activated, automatic commands and workflow activations. While document creation and workflow management will be tailorable to an individual team or user level, to suit their specific working practices and clinical system. Allowing them to work the way they want to work rather than making them work the way the system works.

For more information, please visit Lexacom’s website here.

Think Healthcare on the NHS drive towards cloud telephony

Pressure on general practice has never been higher, and it’s not easy to find time to focus on designing out problems at their source as opposed to handling the fallout.

The recent GMS contract announcements, along with recommendations in the Fuller Stocktake have brought cloud telephony into the spotlight as both an impending problem, and also a solution to a number of COVID recovery and patient access issues within primary care.

In 2025 the old analogue PSTN & ISDN circuits are all being switched off. Put simply, if a GP practice was on this legacy technology and didn’t upgrade to the cloud then they would simply stop receiving patient calls. Latest figures from NHSE show there could be over 50 percent of practices still using these older systems.

When you combine the technical need to upgrade with the commercial benefits and improved terms provided by the new NHSE Better Purchasing Framework, we’re entering a sweet spot for practices to upgrade before the last minute switch off rush.

How to address multiple problems with a single solution

There are a small number of NHS specific cloud telephony solutions such as Think Healthcare who focus solely on addressing the full range of challenges faced by GP surgeries. It’s for this reason only a limited number of suppliers are assured under the new NHSE cloud telephony framework as being the best of breed for primary care services.

Improving patient access

It feels like every other article on the subject of primary care recently is centred around improving patient access. Thankfully cloud telephony solutions such as ours can improve patient access and minimise patient complaints via clever technology involving minimal user intervention.

There’s auto-call back, for example. When the queues are long, patients have the option to press a button and Think Healthcare holds their position in the queue while they hang up and carry on with their day. The system automatically calls them back when they reach the front of the queue.

This supports happier patients, and streamlines demand to make it easier for staff to handle.

Reducing access inequalities

With many new contracts requiring focus on improving access inequalities, it’s often hard to pinpoint tangible big impact changes that can be made. Thankfully advanced cloud telephony solutions can help with this.

Take VIP call routing – you can configure Think Healthcare to react differently to the needs of different patient groups. Run searches within your clinical system to define who needs a bespoke experience. For example, palliative patients can be routed to the front of the queue automatically; those who struggle with phone system menus can be routed directly to a human; or key practice or PCN staff can be straight through to a receptionist.

Maximising practice efficiency to help improve patient care

Integration with practice clinical systems helps identify patients & their requirements automatically assisting call handlers to work more efficiently.

Supporting NHS contracts current and future

With the recent QOF requirements for optimising access to general practice, and the upcoming 2023 general practice access recovery plan there’s never been a better time to look at how cloud telephony can improve the performance & service given by your practice and PCN.

For more information please visit their website.

Patient Access

On the topic of digital primary care, let’s take a look at what’s been happening with regard to patients accessing their online GP records.

In February this year, we welcomed Dr Osman Bhatti, chief clinical information officer from North East London ICB, for a discussion on this topic. Osman highlighted some of the challenges that primary care staff are facing, safety considerations that should be made, and best practice used by his own ICB.

As part of his session, Osman shared the step-by-step process that North East London ICB used to facilitate this change.

  1. Patients request online access. Osman encourages practices to ensure that they have a good process in place for this and support patients to contact them in whichever manner best suits the patient, in order to request this.
  2. Practices issue an application form to the patient following the request. “We’re thinking about ways to make this a bit easier – perhaps we can do it as an online form rather than paper,” Osman said. He showed an example of the ICB’s form at 16:36 on the video below, highlighting how they have included ‘things to consider’ for patients on topics such as forgotten history, abnormal results and bad news.
  3. Patient returns form and practice verifies identify of patient.
  4. Practices add a specific code to indicate that patient registration data has been verified to the medical record. “This is just so that we’ve got that governance in place, so it’s been recorded,” Osman said.
  5. Patients are either given full access as per their request on the application form, either at the point of verification or after the record review in the next step. “Some practices decide to give access straight away and then look at the notes, because they are confident in their processes; others want to review the record and then provide access. It’s very much up to the practice.”
  6. The practice reviews the record within a set time frame. “We’ve given them a rough aim of about two weeks,” Osman explained. “We recommend that at this point, you also look at tidying up the record. You want to make sure that the problem list is accurate so that the patient gets an accurate picture of their medical record and their problems. Again, this is something that can be overlooked if everyone is granted prospective access automatically.” He also recommended checking the medication list.

“In addition to these six steps, it is very much about making sure that as a practice you’ve got an ongoing process in place,” Osman said. “It’s about improving training within the practice – one of the other areas we’ve focused on is what training practices need, particularly around the admin team. When we get documents coming into the practice, are we in a good place where we are reviewing them and making sure that there is no third-party information? If there is, is it getting redacted where it needs to be? There needs to be a good focus all of this at the point of entry to the practice, a good review so that everything gets coded properly.

“A lot of practices do this already, but I think that when you’ve got a lot happening, the pandemic on top of your long-term management, one of the things that can often get overlooked is the actual record and how we maintain it. We’ve been trying to get our practice staff access to good coding training to make sure that everyone is aware of good data quality.”

Catch up with Osman’s session in full here.