Case Study: Well-recognised for its adoption of innovative technologies, Haughton Thornley Medical Centres have implemented the online and video consultation platform, Engage Consult, to improve digital access and manage effective remote consultations.

Background

Located in the North West, Haughton Thornley Medical Centres (HTMC) comprises Haughton Vale Surgery in Denton and Thornley House Medical Centre in Hyde, with a combined patient population of over 13,000.  Located in deprived areas, the centres support patients who tend to have a greater need for health services.  

The innovative practice has been championing online services for more than 16 years and today provides a range of digital services from booking appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions, viewing electronic health records, and sharing records with others, to providing proxy access for family members or carers. In fact, the forward-thinking practice team’s proactive approach to encouraging patients online was fully recognised in its latest CQC inspected, rated Outstanding.

With patients already encouraged to have full access to their electronic health record, the opportunity to take this to the next level was endorsed, as Dr Hannan, GP explains, “It seemed natural for HTMC to encourage our patients to go online to ask for help from the surgery, and complete a full Instant Medical History so that when we come into the surgery in the morning, we are able to see comprehensive medical information.”

Dr Amir Hannan from Haughton Thornley Medical Centre

Challenges

In response to the Government’s NHS Long Term Plan, to ensure that every patient in England has access to online digital GP services, the practice recognised the benefits of adopting a new way of working whilst also tackling the additional challenges emerging through the extraordinary circumstances of a global pandemic.

To meet the unique challenges, a move to a digital-first approach for the practice was imperative to simplify the patient journey and secure greater efficiencies.  With patients’ expectations evolving rapidly, convenience and choice are essential.  

For HTMC, a flexible and highly functional solution was needed to make life easier for the practice and its patients and enhance the quality of care.  Transformation of service delivery was imperative to improve the patient experience and overcome the barriers of patients spending significant time on the phone booking appointment, being faced with long waiting times, and having to visit the practice for routine requests.  

Solution 

The practice collaborated with Engage Health Systems to implement their online and video consultation platform, Engage Consult.  As a user-friendly, accessible, and secure system, Engage Consult has enabled the practice to simplify, digitise and safeguard the workplace.  

The medical centre now operates a modern triage system and patients request help online via Engage Consult.  Using Instant Medical History (IMH), Engage Consult guides HTMC’s patients through a series of questions, providing an opportunity to upload photos as required.  No two questionnaires are the same as questions are set in response to patients’ previous answers; with thousands of questions linked by branching logic, covering the full breadth of medicine.  Once a patient completes the questionnaire, which takes between 5 and 10 minutes, Engage Consult checks their ideas, expectations and concerns.  

The solution gathers information for GPs to determine the best approach to managing patients’ care.  Engage Consult’s simple intuitive workflow also allows requests to be assigned to the right person, or group first time as Dr Hannan explains, “The questionnaires come into the surgery and our trained reception staff assign cases to the relevant GP.  This is helpful because it enables us to understand what the key issues are for the patient.” 

Secure two-way messaging facilitates routine responses, or video consultation when a more detailed discussion or sight of a patient is necessary. Dr Hannan continues, “I go through the questionnaires one-by-one, look at ideas, concerns and expectations, if there’s a photo I’ll review, and then look at the answers which provide 80 – 90% of the information needed. I’m then able to deal with it immediately by secure 2 way messaging, or by telephoning the patient.” The patient receives the response they require via the most appropriate route, this may include an invitation for a face to face discussion.

As Engage Consult is fully integrated with the clinical systems, the next step is equally as simple and straightforward.  Dr Hannan continues, “We are able to add our comments and findings to the request report and then save the report into the EHR (EMIS Web), with appropriate additions to the actual body of the consultation note.  Then, at the end of the day, we can see we’ve cleared everything.”

Benefits 

Haughton Thornley Medical Centres have improved patient access, facilitating a 24/7 service; accessible anytime, anyplace, anywhere, from any device.  Using Engage Consult, patient experience has improved as unnecessary visits to the practice for clinical or admin queries are avoided.  

Built-in alerts for conditions including Covid 19 are invaluable during the pandemic, and patients can access symptom-specific self-help advice. “It’s excellent, Engage Consult doesn’t just ask questions about the condition, it provides patients with an opportunity to explore other areas of concern, for instance, mental health problems, sleep problems and so on.  Ultimately, we want to increase health literacy so that patients have a better understanding of their healthcare needs,” said Dr Hannan.

Simple and easy-to-use for staff as well as patients, the solution supports flexible working and can be used remotely by practice team staff to manage requests.

For the practice, Engage Consult has boosted operational and financial efficiencies.  There has been a reduction in inbound and outbound telephone calls which has freed up capacity and generated cost-savings.  “Engage Consult is very helpful, it saves a lot of time,” said Dr Hannan.

Through improved data capture, Engage Consult enables the time spent discussing with the patient to be used more efficiently as  Dr Hannan explains, “I’m encouraging all patients to register for Engage Consult.  The great thing is that because the full medical history is there, I can go straight into the management plan, or complete the examination findings, if I’m seeing the patient, and spend a lot more time on shared decision-making and determining a way forward.”

Way forward

The pace and scale of change in healthcare is remarkable, and a sustainable solution to support digital access to primary care, and improve practices and processes is a priority.

Engage Consult proved invaluable during the first wave of the pandemic, and moving forward, HTMC plan to encourage more patients to use Engage Consult in order to deliver high quality, safe services for all.

“Engage Consult is a big thumbs up. I’m finding it much easier to deal with queries, and getting a very comprehensive medical history provides more information than I would have otherwise had.  This means I spend more time managing the patient ensuring shared decision-making,” concludes Dr Hannan.

Engage Consult benefits for HTMC

  • Enables effective information sharing between GPs and patients
  • Improves the quality of information available to make management decisions by using detailed Computer Patient Interviewing
  • Supports patient empowerment 
  • Improves patient experience
  • Facilitates 24/7 patient access 
  • Facilitates flexible staff working 
  • Generates cost-savings – saving clinical and admin time