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Digital triage innovation seeks to cut NHS waiting lists

NHS hospitals and health Trusts have been told that their financial plans are 'simply unaffordable', with calls for urgent change without impacting the care of patients.

There were a staggering 100 million NHS outpatient appointments during the year 2013-2014, at a cost of £20 billion, or one fifth of the NHS budget. However, many of these appointments turn out to be routine, and could be avoided or significantly shortened if the required patient information could be made available to doctors ahead of time.

UK company, Time for Medicine, is addressing this pressing challenge with digital triage software that remotely links patients and specialists, treating more patients at home or in primary care, potentially unlocking huge cost savings for the NHS.

The average waiting time to be seen by an NHS specialist is around four months, while 9% of eating disorder sufferers wait over two years to see a consultant. The system is severely pressured. Many appointments could be avoided altogether through remote diagnosis.

Time for Medicine's digital triage approach enables patients to provide the mandatory information that consultants require, as well as the ability to add the results of required tests or examinations. This directly addresses the concerns of the 'worried well’, by offering them a detailed 'report card' outlining their symptoms and any required actions. This will reduce costs to the NHS with fewer face-to-face interactions taking place.

Clive Minihan, Managing Director of Time for Medicine, comments: “The majority of people seen by specialists have similar conditions, with three quarters able to be diagnosed without seeing the patient. With the rest, most of the appointment time is taken up collecting information. In the most extreme cases, patients can die before they get to be seen.”

The UK government has described an urgent need for the use of digital technologies to drive NHS efficiencies. Time for Medicine is at the forefront of this change, with user feedback showing overwhelmingly positive responses from both patients and consultants for the ease, efficiency and effectiveness of the service.

The service is targeting 20 clinical specialities, which make up 30% of total outpatient appointments. Time for Medicine is aiming to cut these waiting lists by a quarter, saving the NHS millions per month, while freeing consultants to offer more targeted and effective care.