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Paul Bensley X-on Managing Director - IT systems can reduce the load on hard pressed GPs

Paul Bensley

Phones, Paper Clips and AI Funding

Phones, Paper Clips and AI Funding

What is this and who should pay for it?

The NHS can seem a little confused

IT Systems can make the lot of the hard pressed GP less unbearable. This message, at times fuelled by desperation, has filtered up to those handing out budgets. Funding is available for self help Apps, encouraging the populace to manage appointments and prescriptions. The AI bots are ready to step in with their clinical diagnoses, handing over to video triage sessions administered by a bank of practitioners when they get stuck.

My 88 year old mother is pretty bright for her age. However, I can confidently predict that she will never book a GP appointment on line, nor seek a diagnosis from an app on her mobile - she only turns it on when expecting a call, for a start. Along with millions of her demographic, and some others less digitally savvy, she will pick up the phone and join a queue to speak to the receptionist.

For many GP Practices, the phone system is still paid for alongside the fax machines and paperclips. Contracts, some of them signed unwittingly by Practice Managers duped by sharp suited salesmen late in the last century, tie them into paying handsomely for lines, maintenance and call costs until the ice caps have all melted. Such systems are often unsuitable for modern practices, particularly as they start to federate to share resources and achieve economies of scale.

Technology is now available to address the immediate challenges of telephony in primary care. Cloud based distributed phone systems based on contact centre technology can increase the efficiency of call handling through intelligent routing and integration with triage and clinical systems. This is no different to other industries, but the complex needs of primary care coupled with confusion as to where the funding should come from has produced a lag. Compare the experience of calling your local surgery with calling a bank.

Cloud Phone System Solutions to GP Forward View High Impact Actions

Solutions for GP Forward View

  • Integration with clinical systems to improve work flows
  • Telephone triage to expand consultation options and support self-care
  • Multi-site communications to assist practices with effective federation
  • Secure call recording to enhance case review and staff training
  • Reducing DNAs with positive patient action

When up against the green fields of Apps and Video, updating telephony over a group of surgeries is a complex project. But some forward looking CCGs and federations are starting to deploy IT funding to make it happen, supporting the Forward View. By steering clear of "commodity VoIP" solutions, and choosing suppliers with experience in project management and customer support, managers and IT professionals can start to build a modern telephony network for Primary Care that delivers value to patients and reduces the burden on staff.