Can remote monitoring help cope with capacity and demand in General Practice?

30th January 2024

A recent poll suggested that 1 in 5 general practices want to use technology to help to manage demand.

In the North East and North Cumbria, five GP practices in the region are piloting the use of remote monitoring in several clinical pathways, in a pilot programme led by HI NENC.  The pilot explores the use of existing technology, over a rapid six-month period.

Kay Brydon, Business Change and Benefits Lead at NECS, is supporting practices to manage the changes to their clinical pathways. In this blog Kay explains more about this process.

When I was asked to support practices with a project to explore how remote monitoring could help General Practice to cope with capacity and demand, I was instantly excited. I could see huge potential in the project and an opportunity to share learning at scale, make some time savings and efficiencies within general practice, and ultimately make a difference to patients.

In a previous role I worked as a GP Receptionist in a busy practice. I experienced several head in hands moments when there were no more appointments by 9.30am and the phone is still ringing. I would have welcomed any suggestions to increase capacity. This in part led me to my role as a Business Change Manager – to pursue how I could make a difference to the system.

The remote monitoring project – the journey so far

First and foremost, the project aimed to address how practices can cope with demand for services, and it was recognised that practices needed to look at new ways of working.

Rather than purchasing additional software or devices, the focus was on adapting current processes and using existing systems (such as Accurx and eConsult) to create remote monitoring pathways.

Each practice was asked to choose two focus areas, these included HRT, Contraceptive, Asthma and Hypertension reviews, UTI and Diabetes pathways. Practices were supported to review and map their current processes step by step and identify where the digital tools could replace face to face steps in the patient journey.

One of the practice managers said this was a ‘lightbulb moment’ for them; reviewing their current process identified steps in the current patient journey that were unnecessary to patients and wasting valuable appointment time. They had simply never had the time to step back and review better ways of working.

I met with the practices on several occasions to discuss the systems that could best support them, helped map out what their new process would look like and discuss any issues they were experiencing. Together we developed flow charts, standard operating procedures and supporting materials that can be shared with other practices, including lessons learnt.

The results

It has been amazing to see how practices have embraced the project and realised the opportunities digital tools can bring. Although the project is in its infancy we have seen some amazing results from the pathways, with some practices reporting savings in staff time which can only be a good thing for staff and patients.

For example, the Village Surgery in Cramlington introduced a new process for contractive pill checks. As a result of this new way of working they saved 50 appointments in the first month. The scheme has the potential to save approximately 500 appointments every year for 1 practice and if scaled to more practices it would have a much wider impact e.g. 10 practices 5,000 appointments saved per year, 100 practices 50,000 appointments saved per year.

So, can remote monitoring help cope with capacity and demand in General Practice? My answer to that would be YES!

To find out more about the remote monitoring programme, visit the HI NENC website.

If your organisation would like to find out more about how we could help you to rapidly discover innovative solutions or to access our Innovation Design Service please contact Sarah Rendall.