Navigating digital transformation in primary care: Avoiding the most common pitfalls most practices face

November 23, 2023

Flemming Jensen is a specialist in primary and acute care process transformation with 20 years of experience. Formerly a Business Manager at Portland Medical Practice in South London, Flemming is the Managing Director of LineIn which helps practices manage patient access through specialist call-handling services. Here, he shares his recommendations for primary care teams in implementing NHS digital primary care requirements. 

Today, digital transformation is an expectation of any GP practice, and a key requirement of modern general practice.

However, for most of those working in primary care – regardless of whether their role is clinical or administrative –  such transformation is rarely a priority. 

With practices struggling to meet patient demand, committing resources into complex transformation programmes may appear costly and counterintuitive.  And yet, since the introduction of new digital requirements by NHS England, practices no longer have the luxury of opting-out of such processes. 

So, as practices explore how best to shift current models to a more integrated digital and online offering for patients, where should their priorities lie, what challenges will they face, and how can they ensure that both patients and staff are brought on the journey?


What is expected of GP practices when it comes to digital service provision?

The move toward a core digital offering for primary care has been in progress since the beginning of NHS England’s latest five year framework for primary care. As we reach the end of that framework, the expectation is now that practices must be able to offer the patients they serve access to services digitally.

These services encompass online consultation tools, triage solutions, video consultations, secure electronic communications, and online facilities for updating personal information. The overarching goal is to offer patients greater flexibility and convenience in how they access primary healthcare services.

But the requirements signify a significant shift toward incorporating digital and online services into the operations of GP practices. Essentially, they mandate that practices must not only adopt but actively promote a range of tools and services to patients. 

For practices, this translates to a change in the way they interact with patients, embracing technology as a means to enhance patient care and improve patient access to primary care. However, it's important to note that these digital tools are not intended to replace existing methods but rather to complement them and be an enabler of improvement.


What are the key considerations for practices seeking to transform their services?

  • Understanding patients’ and your practice’s specific requirements

Practices should begin by identifying the specific needs of their practice and patient population - consider factors such as patient demographics, existing workflows, and the level of digital literacy among patients. 

Making best use of resources requires solutions that maximise the capabilities your practice has available. When providing patients access to online services, it is essential that such access enables patients to get through to the right point of care, first time. Understanding what resources you have available – GPs, pharmacists, ACPs, physiotherapists, and developing services that help patients and staff navigate to the most appropriate option dependent on the query is critical.

Practices can offer equality of access by ensuring  they use a digital tool that can be accessed via the telephone   - for example, with  Klinik where there is a telephone module that ensures the same information can be captured regardless of the channel used


  • Engage early, engage often. 

It’s crucial to involve your team – healthcare professionals, administrative staff, and patients in the decision-making process.  Their input can help tailor the choice of digital tools to practices’ unique requirements.

Listen to the feedback you receive from both patients and staff and share updates on the steps you have or haven’t taken to address feedback.

Ensuring practice staff receive thorough training and patients understand how to use these digital services will help to maximise the benefits of digital tools, enhance the quality of care, and improve overall patient satisfaction. Choose a provider that understands your needs (and that sometimes your needs change). Wherever possible, make sure that you have someone onsite during the implementation who has already been through a similar process with another practice, and can offer help and advice with how to allocate resource, capacity and distribute tasks accordingly. 

Creating resources like user guides and FAQs will help patients navigate the new online services. Equally, conducting pilot programs can help to catch and resolve any technical issues early. 

Once implemented, collecting ongoing patient and staff feedback will help to enhance workflows and improve engagement with digital services.”


  • Choose digital partners that enable and support your transformation

As you undergo your transformation, it is important to identify partners that are aligned with and supportive of your objectives. 

When working to deploy solutions such as the AI-triage platform offered by Klinik, the team there has spent time listening to a practice’s challenges, capacity, resources, and ensured that it reflects the practice’s specific needs. For example, when implementing that solution, use of the telephone module required well trained call handlers, which LineIn were able to provide to obtain relevant information and free up administrative time for practice teams.

Connecting with other practices can also be a great way to learn from their experiences with digital tools and gather recommendations. When choosing digital tools or software, consider factors like data security, ease of use and compatibility with existing systems. 

It is important to ensure that the chosen tools comply with relevant standards and regulations, like the Data Security Standards. Resources like the Data Security and Protection Toolkit are useful to understand how to meet these requirements.

At Klinik, we work with practices to support them to meet NHS england requirements around providing patients access to primary care using digital services. 

The Klinik platform enables patients to contact their practice easily using the online platform. Our detailed patient history taking and AI-enhanced triage and patient streamlining helps ensure the accuracy of care decisions, regardless of which channel patients first contact the practice.

"Even our most ardent doubters have seen that demand can be successfully managed with online triage."
Martin Eades, Managing Partner
Priory Medical Group
"We understand our patients like never before. We now have data on the true demand we face in general practice. We have the tools to share that workload across the whole primary care network."
Martin Eades, Managing Partner
Priory Medical Group
"We are seeing 8,000 more patients compared to the same time last year thanks to Klinik, and doing so with the same level of resources."
Martin Eades, Managing Partner
Priory Medical Group
“The system enables our clinicians to review the information provided by patients, and provides a suggested priority level. This allows us to ensure we have the patient see the right person at the right time.”
Dr. Azhar Ali, Managing Partner
Forth Medical Group
"Together with Klinik, we have invested the energy to make it the way we want it to be, and now we are seeing the results.”
Dr Sarmad Zaidi
Roxbourne Medical Centre
“Now Klinik is in place, we don’t ever want to go back. Our reception staff feel less pressured to act according to patient expectations, and the whole team feels that they are better placed to deal with all incoming queries. We can breathe now.”
Trupti Chauhan, Operations Manager
Roxbourne Medical Centre
"Now we know what the demand is, we can see what changes need to be made, and we can manage expectation and optimise the journey for every patient. We can assign the right level of resources to deal with the enquiry, and use the most expensive resource where it’s most effective."
Trupti Chauhan, Operations Manager
Roxbourne Medical Centre
“Feedback from other practices using the system was very positive, especially how responsive the company was to people’s needs.”
Dr Michael Curran, GP partner
Church Street Medical Centre
“For any other practice I would say this would make a valuable addition to the practice. In the current environment, it is becoming essential to have an efficient triage service that can assess risk and identify urgency, so that care can be given according to need, rather than demand. I would strongly recommend this to any GP practice.”
Dr Michael Curran, GP partner
Church Street Medical Centre
"With the Klinik online consultation service, we can now get the correct patient to the correct point of care in the most efficient way."
Dr Thomas Patel-Campbell
Haxby Group