The 2021 flu season is soon upon us. With 35 million people to vaccinate for seasonal flu, people over 50 to potentially receive a Covid booster, a Delta variant that is very much alive, a long Covid challenge, and a huge backlog of interventions pending – this flu season will be more challenging than ever.
- Vaccinating 35 million people in England for seasonal flu
- Continue vaccination programme, including potential boosters for the over 50 population
- Treating long covid, which requires remote support to large numbers of people
- Growing numbers of people presenting in urgent care, particularly with mental health issues
- Massive backlog in procedures and preventions, including cancer screening and health checks.
- An exhausted clinical workforce that has been battling back several fires since March 2020
It would be wrong to suggest that digital technology can address all these challenges all by itself. However, after supporting our vast primary care network of users and commissioners over the last 17 months, we have developed an overall solution that addresses most of the urgent challenges.
How to quickly engage large but selected parts of the population around vaccination?
iPLATO’s core expertise in population health engagement has seen us consistently supporting successful flu vaccination programmes in the UK. In 2020, we managed more than 180 million transactions on our platform; several million of those relating directly to flu interventions. For Flu 21, we are expanding our existing flu solution to include web-based booking; completing the circle of vaccination support as we approach the autumn and winter months.
We now offer not just targeted and personalised SMS campaigns, selective appointment booking on the myGP App, and a chatbot for patient education, but also web-based booking to streamline invitation, booking, and follow-up capabilities. This 360 solution will allow us to go further in support of vaccination programmes throughout the community, both within GP practices and in larger, dedicated vaccination centres; providing personalised patient engagement campaigns at the practice, PCN, CCG, NHS region, or national level.
How to support people living with long term conditions and long Covid?
iPLATO Research and Development is coming out with two innovations in time for Flu 21.
First, we are adding two-way documents and images to our desktop plugin feature – a free platform feature, touchingly dubbed ‘Buddy’. Buddy already supports video and SMS consultations, but the new release will allow GP practices to save on the cost of text messages, by sending messages to myGP app users, completely free of charge.
Second, we are adding another free tool to the platform in the shape of Patient Questionnaires (PQs). PQs are templated data collection forms sent to as many patients as you want. We are starting with Covid-relevant templates including BMI (weight and height), blood pressure, ethnicity, smoking status, anxiety, body temperature, pulse, oxygen saturation and respiratory rate.
Both Buddy and Patient Questionnaires include SNOMED (or Read) Coding functionality to streamline the interaction with EMIS or SystmOne. Not only does this type of digital consultation technology allow clinicians to work from home; it has proven to increase employee satisfaction. In short – you asked for them and we have delivered them!
How to reduce pressure on urgent care and allow practices to tackle their growing backlogs?
Increasing capacity in primary care and reducing pressure on urgent care is at the heart of every single thing iPLATO does, builds, and advocates for.
We achieve this in our base platform through our easy-to-use SMS appointment reminder/cancellation capability, which allows practices to reallocate appointments in real time.
Additionally, our care-navigation chatbot (pre-GP) reduces unnecessary GP appointments by recognising key words to safely signpost alternatives including pharmacy, practice nurse, patient education, and local services. This premium feature helps stave off unnecessary appointments and allows clinicians to focus on the most urgent patients first.
Finally – as the covid vaccination programme has shown since the beginning of the year – successful prevention including, increased uptake of vaccination, ultimately reduces pressure on urgent care. In addition to engagement around vaccination, the iPLATO team has unique experiences in increasing uptake of cancer screening, mental health services and health checks – just to mention a few.
iPLATO’s commitment to delivering evidence-based digital solutions is unparalleled in British primary care. In recent years we have supported randomised control trials on patient engagement interventions across breast, cervical, and bowel cancer as well as NHS health checks.
Whether you are a single GP practice, a PCN, a CCG or an NHS region, we will base your solution on the kind of firm evidence that patients and clinicians deserve. The kind that has been gathered, tested, challenged, and fine-tuned over nearly of decade of serving British GP services. We are not the new kids on the block. We are a long-time trusted partner of the NHS. A British business serving the communities in which we live.
So we say. “Bring it on, Flu Season 2021. iPLATO and our partner practices are ready for you.”