Instead of the usual roundup of new features, this month we'll pass on some of our plans for the development of Surgery Connect over the coming months and years. This will focus on Primary Care in the NHS, although the developments apply elsewhere as well.
Towards the end of the roadmap, we have a vision of Surgery Connect as not just a phone system, but as a portal for patients who prefer to use the telephone to seek care - whether that is to book an appointment or look for clinical advice or other services. Some of this advice and services will be offered via 'self serve' so the patient can obtain an outcome without ever having to speak with a receptionist. And with additional intelligence in the system, the services can actually be personalised to the patient who is calling, or the subject of the call.
The deliverable outcomes to the NHS are better patient experience, with quicker response times but at a reduced cost to the practice. The latter can be quantified through a reduction in staff time on phone calls, efficient tracking of patient data and a reduction in Did Not Attend figures. More self care will mean less overload on appointments and less overflow into secondary care.
Stage 1 - Clinical System Integration and Patient Dialog
The first stage requires that Surgery Connect can exchange data with the clinical systems. We have made a good start here with our accreditation as an EMIS partner and more integrations will follow.
However, from our experience, patients do not like the clunky "Please enter your date of birth using your keypad" style interfaces that typify IVR services. So we have added natural language speech recognition to Surgery Connect. At the basic level, this will allow callers to say "Appointments" or "Results" rather than using their keypad. But, by natural language, this means patients will be able to ask richer questions such as "Do you have any appointments for next Wednesday?" or "Please could I order a repeat prescription for…".
By the end of Stage 1, patients will be able to undertake the majority of the administrative processes that are normally processed by a receptionist if they wish. But there is always an immediate transfer option where a patient prefers the human touch or gets stuck. And the record of their call and their patient record will be brought to the screen as soon as the phone rings.
Stage 2 - Clinical Advice
You will probably have come across some of the chatbots and other applications that perform a first level of triage. There are naturally concerns about the use of such technology, based on machine learning and sometimes artificial intelligence. But for some conditions, and where patients seek reassurance, some initial advice can relieve valuable time from clinicians. A proportion of calls can be satisfied with advice or directions to other services such as pharmacies.
X-on is planning to extend the Natural Language dialog to give a proportion of patients the option of first line diagnostic conversations with Surgery Connect. Clearly these will be well controlled, with full warnings and audit trails. At any stage, calls can be directed to appropriate services whether that is further medical advice or emergency or routine services. We are working with experts in the field and existing data systems which are already being trialled within the NHS.
The continual development Surgery Connect will mean measurable benefits, and for this reason the reports which this page are going to become ever more important.
It is X-on's plan that the Key Performance Indicators which we create and add to within the reports will both demonstrate the effectiveness of the features we add and establish our place as the leading provider of telephony technology within healthcare.