How tech is helping the NHS fight COVID-19

Written by Suzy Foster [pictured on the right], CEO of EMIS Health

Digital health services have been thrown into the spotlight as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.   

Technology is supporting the rapid creation of new models of care to help the NHS and social care services adapt to cope. Solutions that open a ‘digital front door’ to services are in high demand.

Tech providers large and small have responded to the challenge with pragmatism and speed. Here’s a flavour of what’s been happening in my own organisation over the last few weeks.

Going virtual: video and online consultations

Fighting coronavirus requires a massive reduction in face-to-face contact. But how can frontline clinicians such as GPs – one of our key customer groups – continue to support patients in such circumstances? 

We recognised early on that enabling GPs to work virtually was essential, so we scaled up our ability to offer remote connectivity to our core clinical GP system so GPs can continue to access vital patient records from any location. This was a huge exercise – in three days, we delivered a more than ten-fold increase in our capacity to support concurrent users.

We also rapidly rolled-out our existing video consultation software – free of charge – to our 4,000 plus GP practices in England whose systems can support it.

We’ve seen strong interest in the new service, which allows GPs to protect themselves and their staff but to continue to care for their patients. We’re about to roll it out to our community pharmacy user base as well.

The online consultation is another model of care whose time has come. This week we rolled out this software, also free of charge, to our GP customers in Scotland.

Online consultations work by providing patients with a clinically-authored, pre-built questionnaire that patients complete via e.g. a practice website. GPs review and respond, typically within 24 hours. 

It’s a win-win solution for pressured services and for patients. One GP practice in Scotland has created its own online form to help patients worried about coronavirus.

Supporting patients

EMIS Group serves both clinicians/ organisations and individual patients.  

Our free Patient Access app has 8.4 million registered users who can access clinically-authored information and advice, plus online services such as appointment booking, GP video consultations and managing repeat medication – all linked directly to their NHS GP practice. 

In response to the pandemic, we created a new coronavirus hub and a clinically-authored symptom checker to signpost people to trusted information and to help relieve pressure on primary care services.

To date, more than 130,000 people have used the symptom checker and we are seeing an exponential rise in new users registering for the app; at one stage this was around 20,000 people a day.

The power of data

Finally, this week we have partnered with the Nuffield Department of Primary Care at the University of Oxford and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to support a major new research initiative into COVID-19. Researchers will collect data – under strict governance guidelines – directly from EMIS Health GP practices in order to better understand the spread and impact of the virus.

I am incredibly proud of the impact our organisation and our people are having and that we are able to make a positive difference supporting vital public services at this time of crisis.

I would like to say thank you so very much to everyone at EMIS Health for their continuing hard work and dedication in making all of this happen.

  • Leontina Postelnicu

    Leontina Postelnicu

    Programme Manager | Health and Social Care

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