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GP practices in the London borough of Lewisham will begin to roll out a virtual health assistant application this summer, giving patients access to advice and information 24/7.
The app, called Ask NHS GP, will be rolled out across three practices during the summer, with the 35 other surgeries within the One Health Lewisham federation following suit by the end of the year.
The app includes a symptom checker, which uses clinical decision support technology from supplier Advanced, which will triage the urgency of a health problem and direct patients to the appropriate service.
If a patient using the symptom checker needs to speak to a doctor, the GP will already be aware of the problem by the time the patient has an appointment.
GPs at the practices are also taking part in a steering group to monitor the progress and clinical safety of the project.
Prad Velayuthan, CEO of One Health Lewisham, is leading the project. He said he hopes the app will become “a blueprint” for other GPs across the country.
“We see incredible value in technology to empower patients to self-assess and, while it may take some time for some GPs to embrace a disruptive technology, I am confident the app’s obvious benefits will eventually be accepted and adopted by everyone,” said Velayuthan.
Patients will use their name and date of birth to register with the app, which will automatically link them to their own GP practice.
Although the app does integrate with the NHS 111 clinical assessment service, the Lewisham GPs have chosen not to use this function.
Instead, together with Advanced, they have decided to reconfigure clinical outcomes “to ensure safe patient access through their GP practices during working hours” and using the not-for-profit doctors’ cooperative South East London Doctor on Call (Seldoc) service out of hours.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has promised that all UK patients will have access to NHS services such as medical records, ordering repeat prescriptions and booking GP appointments, via an app by the end of 2018.