smartphoneA new NHS England-commissioned smartphone app has been launched, which aims to speed up access to care by allowing patients to securely book and/or cancel appointments remotely on their smartphones.

The app, developed by health technology experts iPLATO and called myGP, aims to reduce the burden on patient registration and management, as well as improving patient outcomes, by enabling GP practices to automate data collection such as smoking status, streamline call and recall, improve adherence and access to medication and support self-care through digital care plans.

myGP aims to simplify the registration process and open up access to digital patient services. Patients register remotely using their date of birth and mobile number registered with the GP practice. After a quick authentication process, the patient will then have access to a range of functions including secure ‘WhatsApp-like’ practice-patient messaging, appointment booking and cancellation, medication reminders and self-care support tools to monitor weight and blood pressure. 

myGP also aims to reduce the barriers to access digital patient services by offering GP practices (using iPLATO), an intuitive and quick way of switching on myGP and promoting it through text messaging. Whie previous services have been launched to help alleviate GP systems, uptake has been poor despite considerable promotion and investment. However, initial response and uptake of myGP has been positive with patients eager to try out the new service to obtain faster access to care, 24/7 – in some cases adding over 25% of target patients to digital services within a few days of operation.  

Transforming access to primary care also benefits commissioners and tax payers. The NHS Patient Survey found that 10% of patients who cannot get an urgent appointment at their GP practice go straight to urgent care services including A&E.  As such, there is a nationwide push to ensure that the majority of GP appointments are used effectively to help reduce the burden on emergency services at both a primary and secondary level. Patients already use the iPLATO service to cancel appointments by replying ‘cancel’ to SMS appointment reminders. This systematically frees up urgent GP appointments resulting in reduced pressure on urgent care services bringing significant financial savings.

Additionally, waiting times for a GP appointment are increasing year on year, with some patients having to wait up to a month to see their family doctor. Yet the amount of appointments marked as ‘did not attend’ (DNAs) are also increasing. Research suggests more than 14m appointments are missed annually, at a cost of around £300m to the NHS.

Tobias Alpsten, CEO, iPLATO, said: “We are all incredibly excited about the ability of myGP to really make a difference in simplifying and speeding up the GP appointment process and ultimately help to improve patient outcomes.  No other electronic channel elicits replies as quickly as SMS messaging, and as GP practices upgrade to switching on myGP, the app has been designed to be simple to install and easy to use, ensuring that patients can quickly embrace the new technology.  Research from a recent launch with a Kent GP practice found that 27% of patients enrolled on myGP within the first 7 days – when this is replicated nationwide, we will be able to save the NHS a considerable amount of money in wasted appointments, but crucially, we are looking forward to supporting a CCG’s digital care plans to help improve patient outcomes.”

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