A group of GP practices are set to use the power of AI to help triage their patients for the first time in the UK, in a bid to make accessing healthcare more efficient.
Patients are directed to the online system from a GP practice’s website and are asked to input details of their symptoms and answer a series of health questions. The algorithm then uses this and other indicators such as a person’s age and gender to compare with its database of 1,000 conditions to determine urgency and avenue of treatment.
The service, which is widely used in Finland, is now being fully introduced to 60,000 patients across 11 Haxby Group GP surgeries in Hull and York following earlier trials.
Finnish-based company, Klinik Healthcare Solutions, said it aims to relieve resource and cost pressures on GP practices as well as make it easier for patients to get hold of their GP by streamlining patient flow. Patients can access the system at any time.
It is also said to speed up consultation times and improve communication, as GPs can access pre-appointment information the patient has inputted into the online system.
Dr Matthew Bramley, GP partner at The Mount View Practice in Fleetwood, said: ‘Traditionally, patients are required to explain their problem several times to different professionals, starting with the initial phone call. Klinik Access really does streamline the process and should lead to a much quicker response.
‘Patients will of course still be able to book appointments over the phone and we will continue to offer appointments online through myGP, Patient Access and other systems.’
The AI system is said to ‘put care needs first’ rather than work on a first-come-first-served basis. It sends ‘requests’ to the clinical team who can decide on the urgency of a case and how it should be treated. This ensures patients ‘no longer take up valuable appointments needed for others’.
Dr Thomas Patel-Campbell, Haxby Group GP Partner and Chief Clinical Information Officer said: ‘Many requests are simply too nuanced for the administrative teams to manage over the phone.
‘For instance, paramedic and physio background members of the team are qualified to select who needs to see them, but a non-clinical receptionist can’t do that.’
The system, which is currently used by 400 healthcare centres in Finland, was first trialled at two of the York surgeries.
The Klinik Access system accounted for a quarter of all queries registered with the practices online in the first two months of running. Nine out of 10 patients rated it as ‘good or excellent’.
The system is set to roll out to more GPs in the coming months, according to Klinik Healthcare Solutions.