NHS Confed Breakfast Briefing: Managing Unmet Demand in Primary Care

June 28, 2021

How intuitive AI triage and patient flow software is helping GPs meet demand.

The problem of unmet demand

Industry leaders came together at the NHS Confed conference to discuss one of the hottest topics in general practice, how to manage unmet demand.

Primary care network (PCN) and clinical commissioning group (CCG) leads showcased how they were using a combination of technology and process change to address the issue.

Klinik UK Director Ben Wood, opened the discussion by showing how traditional patient flow models drain GP surgery resources. “Practice staff have no insights into urgency, and back end systems do not allow for ordering.”

AI triage and patient flow management software is helping resolve this for 120 UK practices. The total triage solution prioritises and efficiently directs patients to the most appropriate care pathway.

As a result, Klinik is helping practices to optimise their staff and resources, reduce unnecessary GP appointments and enhance patient satisfaction.

Priory Medical Group using AI triage technology to better manage demand

Priory Medical Group revealed how AI triage was central to its demand transformation programme. PCN managing partner, Martin Eades said the network recognised that this would underpin their mission to re-engineer how they recognised, and dealt with true patient demand.

“Using Klinik we got real data that showed us exactly when and where patients were contacting us. This was the golden bullet we needed to shape our clinical workforce, premises and strategies.”

Since implementing Klinik, the Priory Care Group has started ‘heat-mapping’ demand and shaping their workforce accordingly. “We’re really pleased with the results so far,” said Martin, and “clinicians are much happier”.

The impact has been impressive. Waiting time for routine appointments has reduced from 14-21 days to 5-7. Telephone enquiries have dropped from 99% to 30% of contacts. The group has handled 8,000 more patient contacts compared to the same period last year, with no more clinical resources. Patient satisfaction, with the new model, is 87%.

Dr Satpal Shekhawat of North Lincolnshire CCG on working with Klinik to realise its vision

North Lincolnshire CCG is in phase one of their NHS Digital-funded pilot scheme with Klinik. The CCG has initiated a program across two PCNs serving approximately 100,000 patients.

The pilot will explore how AI triage can be used to reduce the workload for GPs, and put patients in touch with the best possible type of care.

“We want patients to get to the right person at the right time,” said Satpal. To facilitate this, “Klinik gathers information in the best possible way.”

The CCG is using the consistent patient information entered in Klinik to signpost patients to the most appropriate healthcare professional. Klinik’s AI triage and patient flow management solution can then help point patients to district nurses, palliative care providers and out-of-hours teams. This will help share the workload and create a more intelligent healthcare network.

AI can help GPs manage the ‘tsunami’ of demand in Cornwall, Dr Adam Ellery explained

Such flexibility is important. The number of patients covered by Kernow CIC in Cornwall doubles during the holiday season. According to Adam, “this tsunami [of demand] is going to challenge every practice.”

Adam’s Cornish practice is using AI triage to help it to meet inflated demand by enhancing its productivity. “Time efficiency has been essential for us, as a small practice, to cope with such a massive demand,” he said.

Now, care navigators can redirect patients to the most appropriate care pathway. This has enabled the practice to flex their staff and resources, which Adam said has been ‘key’.

“Our staff have thoroughly enjoyed using Klinik,” he said. “Now lots of my GP colleagues are coming to see how AI can help them deal with their workloads.”

Indeed, optimising demand management is becoming ever more crucial, especially with hospitals also facing significant workloads. “We need to look very quickly into a system which is safe, and has intuitive AI at its centre,” urged Adam.

Managing demand for in-hours and out-of-hours care

The speakers were unanimous that there should be a standardised, integrated care offer for core and out-of-hours services. “It’s my ambition to break down barriers between hours and out-of-hours using AI, so that workload is distributed appropriately across the weekend,” Adam said.

Martin highlighted how AI triage is helping the Priory Group achieve this. “Typically, after a bank holiday we would see 350 urgent contacts in our system. Last bank holiday, with Klinik there were only 50.” Such demand management success has drastically improved staff morale.

“I think we are leaning towards a future where AI-based triage can help with both in-hours care, as well as out of hours prioritisation,” said Klinik medical advisor Dr Nick Hayward.

He concluded, “AI triage provides more opportunities, not less, for patients to interact with their healthcare services. It helps general practice to more appropriately manage demand.”

See how AI technology can help tackle unmet demand in your practices and arrange a short demo today.

"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