An automated Covid-19 symptom checker for screening patients before routine appointments saved NHS staff from making more than 350,000 phone calls between late March and November.
A review found the City Health Care Partnership CIC (CHCP) service, developed with technology provider Inhealthcare, successfully identified patients who were potentially at risk and enabled staff to take further action.
It also found the service reassured patients they were being looked after and helped nurses to take precautions such as donning personal protective equipment.
Every weekday, CHCP receives around 1,000 patients at its clinics and typically arranges another 1,000 nurse visits in community settings across Hull. The onset of coronavirus meant the patients have to be screened before any face-to-face contact with healthcare professionals.
Mike Cosgrove, project manager at CHCP, said: “The symptom checker service has been invaluable during the pandemic. It has reduced anxiety among patients and professionals, cut the number of missed appointments and enabled our frontline staff to prepare for meeting patients in person.
“The balance between automation and individual input has reduced the demand on nursing staff and provided us with real-time information to help manage the health and wellbeing of our patients.”
Inhealthcare worked with CHCP to quickly design and deploy the service in time for the first lockdown. The service is now being expanded with extra functions including the latest government advice and weather warnings.
Bryn Sage, chief executive of Inhealthcare, said: “We are proud to support frontline NHS staff as they carry on with their vital jobs of providing care to people in the community. Our technology successfully automates routine tasks, creating extra capacity in the NHS to spend more time with patients in the greatest need of care.”
The service connects with patients on the morning of their appointments via automated telephone calls and text messages and relays a request to complete a symptom questionnaire. The patient response is analysed and any warning signs are flagged up, allowing nurses to prepare accordingly or provide the patient with guidance.
Patient records are updated automatically through Inhealthcare’s integration with all major NHS systems. Alerts are raised for any patients who fail to respond to the communications.
CHCP said patient feedback is “extremely positive”. Examples from the review include: “I feel that I am being protected from the impact of the pandemic. Doing this protects us and the nurses coming to see us. It helps prevent further spread of the virus. I am grateful that people are checking on us before my nurse comes to visit me.”