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Digital Life Sciences helps improve patient access to GPs

Digital Life Sciences has teamed up with Birmingham GPs to make it easier for patients see their doctors where and when they want to.

It’s part of a consortium called Health United Birmingham (HUB) that has won almost £1m from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund to pilot new ways of improving access to general practice.

HUB is a partnership between two GP partnerships – Vitality and Bellevue – and Digital Life Sciences, a healthcare technology and change management company.  It’s supported by Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Groups, Sandwell Council and Birmingham City Council.

It aims to radically change the way in which 60,000 Birmingham people access primary care. From July this year, patients will be able to:

  • see GPs from 8am to 8pm seven days a week
  • use instant messaging to chat to clinicians
  • manage their care from their homes.

The Prime Minister announced his GP Challenge Fund in October 2013. He invited GPs to bid for a slice of a £50m cake to pilot new ways of providing primary care.

A recent report from the over-50s group Saga found that 500,000 people had experienced delays of up to four weeks the last time they attempted to book a GP appointment with only one in three managing to secure a same-day appointment.

Health United Birmingham was formed in response. It aims to redesign services by using technology to bring GP services into the twenty-first century.

Sarb Basi, Vitality Partnership chief operating officer, said: “The Health United Birmingham team is absolutely thrilled. We believe this is the right thing for our patients and are looking forward to an exciting next 12 months putting together what is a very innovative, high quality, primary care approach in inner-city Birmingham.”

Robin Vickers, executive director and founder of Digital Life Sciences, said: “The goal is to provide patients with the right service at the right time and in the right place.  By starting from scratch with the way we design services, putting patients at the heart of what we do and using technology in the ways you would expect in a digital age. We can create primary care that is fit for the twenty-first century.”

The pilot comprises a central hub which acts the single point of entry for 60,000 people. Technology is used to increase access to the hub. There is a digital channel through which patient records are stored and shared.  The patient, the GP, the specialists and community workers can all see the patient’s medical records at the same time.

Patients can use instant messaging, or teleconferencing for consultations with a range healthcare professional to access their healthcare from home.

They can upload their care plans, monitor and record their blood sugar levels and exercise regimes, and choose to share this with clinicians and support staff at the touch of a button.

As it has already been proven that self-monitoring in this way reduces hospital admissions by 15 per cent, it is expected that the benefits to patients of extended hours and self-monitoring will be funded by the reduction in cost of patients using secondary care.

Karen Helliwell, Director of Commissioning, NHS England Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country, said: “We would like to congratulate GPs in Birmingham for an innovative scheme that will make a difference to the lives of the patients they serve.

“They were up against some very tough competition which should not be overlooked. “Improving access to GPs is imperative to prevent health problems storing up and to avoid pressure on our hospitals.

“I look forward to seeing the results of this exciting scheme and how it transforms healthcare in Birmingham.”