Solution transforms patient access to primary care services
Commissioned by NHS England, a revolutionary new smartphone app - myGP - developed by London-based iPLATO has launched for GP practices to help speed up access to care by allowing patients to securely book and/or cancel appointments remotely on their smartphones.
Remote patient registration to myGP takes a few seconds with no effort from the practice team.
myGP, which works on iPhone and Android devices, will improve patient outcomes by enabling GP practices to automate data collection such as smoking status, streamline call and recall, improve adherence, and access to medication and support self care through digital care plans.
One of the key benefits of myGP is that it simplifies the registration process to access digital patient services. Patients register remotely using their date of birth and mobile number registered with the GP practice. Following a quick authentication process, they are ‘ready to go’, with functionality including secure ‘WhatsApp-like’ practice-patient messaging, appointment booking and cancellation, medication reminders and self care support tools to monitor weight and blood pressure. myGP further reduces the barriers to access digital patient services by offering GP practices using iPLATO an intuitive and quick way of switching on myGP and promoting it through text messaging.
While previous services have been launched to help alleviate GP systems, uptake has been poor despite considerable promotion and investment. However, initial response and uptake of myGP has been very positive, with patients eager to try out the new service to obtain faster access to care, 24/7 - in some cases adding over 25% of target patients to digital services within a few days of operation.
Transforming access to primary care offers obvious advantages to patients, but it also benefits commissioners and tax payers. The NHS Patient Survey found that 10% of patients who cannot get an urgent appointment at their GP practice go straight to urgent care services including A&E. As such, there is a nationwide push to ensure that the majority of GP appointments are used effectively to help reduce the burden on emergency services at both a primary and secondary level. Patients already use the iPLATO service to cancel appointments by replying ‘cancel’ to SMS appointment reminders. This systematically frees up urgent GP appointments resulting in reduced pressure on urgent care services, bringing significant financial savings.
The launch of myGP comes in the wake of the newly-branded NHS Digital, which has been tasked to help the NHS increase its capacity to deliver modern services by harnessing digital technologies for a ‘21st-century NHS’. Furthermore, waiting times for a GP appointment are also increasing year on year, with some patients having to wait up to a month to see their family doctor - yet the amount of appointments marked as ‘did not attend’ (DNAs) are also increasing.
GP leaders said the ‘plague’ of DNAs was driving up waiting times and putting patients at risk. Research suggests more than 14 million appointments are missed annually at a cost of around £300m to the NHS.
Adding myGP to text messaging will expand access and urgent care avoidance benefits. 1,500 GP surgeries in the UK already use iPLATO, which is cloud-based, thereby reducing the possibility of any service interruption that arises from a server breakdown.
While SMS messaging services have been widely used by GP surgeries for some time now; myGP is the first service that enables patients on different GP Systems - EMIS Health and Vision - to immediately book an appointment via their mobile phone. This will help to reduce calls to practice switchboards, as well as save administrative costs on sending patient letters and outbound calls as communication is optimised.
myGP securely automates the process of capturing important patient data, initially focused on promoting stop smoking services, which will also alleviate long term pressure on the NHS. Working alongside iPLATO’s text messaging services, practices use myGP to send alerts and reminders regarding health campaigns such as seasonal flu inoculations, NHS Health Check, and cancer screening. In a marketing campaign dubbed ‘I Love myGP’, iPLATO is actively encouraging GP surgeries to promote myGP to their patients before the winter and big seasonal flu immunisation programme begins to help target those groups most at risk i.e people living with long-term conditions, pregnant women, and those over 65 years of age.
Tobias Alpsten, chief executive of iPLATO comments: “We are all incredibly excited about the ability of myGP to really make a difference in simplifying and speeding up the GP appointment process and ultimately help to improve patient outcomes.
“No other electronic channel elicits replies as quickly as SMS messaging, and as GP practices upgrade to switching on myGP, the app has been designed to be simple to install and easy to use, ensuring that patients can quickly embrace the new technology.
“Research from a recent launch with a Kent GP practice found that 27% of patients enrolled on myGP within the first seven days. When this is replicated nationwide, we will be able to save the NHS a considerable amount of money in wasted appointments, but, crucially, we are looking forward to supporting a CCG’s digital care plans to help improve patient outcomes.”