What is PATCHS?
PATCHS is an online consultation system
Online consultation systems have been around for a while, but have so far had limited impact on primary care.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, all GP practices are expected to have an online consultation system, and NHS England recommends they should be used for all initial patient contacts to reduce the spread of the virus.
Unfortunately, a rush to adopt online consultation systems in response to COVID-19 has left many GP practices with outdated solutions that are unable to deliver value.
These systems provide a poor user experience, and can actually increase GP practice workload. Problems with existing online consultation systems include:
- Poor design making them difficult to use for both patients and staff, which can cause low uptake.
- Unconstrained patient demand increasing workload and overwhelming GP practice staff.
- Lack of integration with clinical systems meaning consultation reports must be manually filed.
- Missing functionality such as image and document uploads, 2-way messaging, and video capability.
How is PATCHS different?
PATCHS addresses the problems of other online consultation systems through its:
- Simple design giving a great user experience (rated 4.5 out of 5 by users).
- Safe and effective triage system with AI-powered signposting and workflow automation to control patient demand.
- Clinical system integration through DocMan 10 allowing automatic filing of consultation reports.
- Complete functionality including image and document uploads, 2-way seamless patient messaging, and video, allowing you to conduct patient consultations entirely online.
How does PATCHS work?
- Patients register for an account via your practice website or smartphone.
- Patients submit requests about health issues and other queries using the PATCHS ‘Chatbot’.
- Requests enter the PATCHS ‘inbox’ for practice staff to read and respond.
- Requests are triaged and workflowed to the most appropriate person to action.
- Staff can respond by online message, SMS, phone, or video call.
You can see a demo video of PATCHS here:
How is PATCHS different to other online consultation solutions?
PATCHS has the following features:
- Medical record integration including automatic patient registration, note filing, and SNOMED coding
- Bulk and 2-way patient messaging using email or SMS
- AI triage and mental health detection using free-text responses, trained by GPs
- Ability to control patient request volume
- Image and document uploads
- Video consultations
- Customisable questionnaires
- Progressive Web App for smartphones
- Patient links to NHS guidance
- One-click federated working allows GP practices and PCNs to set up virtual hubs / eHubs
- Questionnaires for LTCs and other conditions
- Language translation (coming soon)
- Flexible operating model so can be used for Total Digital Triage or as an ‘add-on’ system
- Access to Advanced support team and the simplicity of dealing with one supplier
What are the benefits of using PATCHS?
Our research into PATCHS has found clear benefits for patients, receptionists, and clinical staff when using PATCHS as the main way for patients contact you.
I also have first-hand experience of these benefits myself using PATCHS in my own practice, which you can read more about here.
Benefits for patients
- Improved access. Patients can submit requests any time (depending on when you have PATCHS turned on) without having to wait on the phone.
- Quick response. They get a quicker response from a clinician than having to wait for an appointment in future.
- Convenience. Patients usually don’t have leave their house if consulted via PATCHS.
- Support for vulnerable patients. Carers can use PATCHS on their behalf – but for those that don’t have carers and cannot use a computer or smartphone, PATCHS frees up the phone lines for them.
- Many patients prefer communicating in writing. Because it’s easier for them to describe their symptoms more fully and accurately than they could in a traditional telephone or face-to-face consultation, they can take their time to answer questions, can review and edit them before submitting, and have a written record to refer back to in future. This is particularly helpful for patients with anxiety or autistic spectrum disorder because they may find it difficult to communicate verbally how they’re feeling. Some patients say it’s easier for them to discuss sensitive topics, such as mental health issues, in writing rather than on the phone or face-to-face. We've found this is particularly true for male patients who may have avoided seeking help from the doctors before.
- Patients can use their own words to describe their issues. Rather than certain other online consultation systems where they have to answer lots of yes/no tick box questions.
We collect feedback from patients each time they use PATCHS. We've had over 20 thousand reviews - and on average patients give PATCHS a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. This article explains how to see the feedback patients have left in your practice.
Benefits for receptionists
- PATCHS requests are quicker to deal with than phone calls. It’s much easier to read what a patient has to say rather than wait for them to tell you over the phone.
- Less phone calls to answer. Patients who use PATCHS don't have to phone the surgery. And those that do come through are from patients that really need to use the phone – either because they can’t use PATCHS or because it’s an emergency.
- Patients are more pleasant to deal with. Because they're generally happier after using PATCHS and aren’t complaining about long waits for appointments
Benefits for clinicians
- You know the patient agenda up-front. You can see all the things the patient wants to discuss, which is much better than waiting until you’re actually on the phone with them or they're in your consultation room. You’d never to go a meeting without having an agenda, so why would we have multiple meetings with our patients every day without knowing what their agenda is? You can then see how long (or short) it may take to resolve a request and can plan your day accordingly.
- PATCHS requests are quicker to deal with than phone calls. As with receptionists, reading a PATCHS request is much quicker than waiting for the patient to describe their symptoms in a phone call or face-to-face consultation.
- Flexibility and control over your day. You can take much time as you need to deal with a patient request because not everything’s shoe-horned into a traditional 10-minute appointment. Your day is more relaxed – you can have breaks in between dealing with requests, cups of tea, do paperwork, or review blood tests as you go.
- Control over how you deal with patient requests. You decide the most appropriate way to respond to the patient – not everything has to be dealt with as a face-to-face appointment or telephone call. You can of course still do those methods if you think it would change your clinical management, but we find that nearly three quarters of PATCHS requests can be closed without a telephone call or face to face consultation.
- Consultations can be more focused. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep telephone or face-to-face consultations focused. When using the 2-way messaging function in PATCHS it’s easy to do this if you wish.