Tools & Techniques

Using Digital Co-ordination to increase remote consultation capacity

Written by:
Qian Huang

Great news! The NHS is accelerating the use of remote consultation appointments to ensure patients and workforce are able to receive and deliver healthcare safely and effectively while a pandemic is unfolding. Currently, about 50% of NHS GP practices offer remote consultations and the challenge is to scale up this offering as quickly as possible to the remaining practices.


There is a plethora of options available to the NHS to implement remote consultation appointments ranging from secure telephone or video consultation facility to fully outsourced online solutions, with anything in between. Even if money is not an issue, as stated by the Chancellor, how should the NHS expand and optimise remote consultations in the fastest and most efficient way?

Maximum output for minimum input

Whilst it is unlikely that overall GP appointment capacity can be increased significantly in the short term, it is entirely possible to optimise the existing capacity by prioritising based on patient needs. This could work by giving the NHS 111 service the capability to prioritise and match demand to all available GP remote consultation appointments in the entire health ecosystem in real-time. Implementation could be on a local, regional or national basis, meaning for example that patients triaged by 111 can be placed on a priority queue for all GPs offering remote consultation appointments across the country. GPs can proactively pick the next suitable patient in the priority queue for them to treat. This is a tried and tested model, already implemented in NHS ambulatory and emergency care settings, except now in a completely virtual environment, with no additional administration of booking and scheduling.

This is possible today by adopting existing appropriate workflow technology, allowing the NHS to direct its available capacity, at any point in time, to the patients who need it the most first.  

"The NHS has on so many occasions managed to excel in crisis through the relentless hard work of their dedicated workforce, but this time technology and innovation must play a bigger role."

Those of us who work to bring technology and digital solutions to the NHS should help take some of the burden off individual care givers and their families, making sure we give this incredibly dedicated workforce a better time through this crisis.