Engage Consult – Digital Self-Referral for MSK

    September 23, 2019

    Engage Consult – Digital Self-Referral for MSK

    Digital self referral at-a-glance

    Faster, digital referral for people with MSK conditions
    The desire to use technology to speed up the time between someone seeking help and being effectively triaged, so that care is safer and more efficient.
    • It’s estimated that 30 per cent of GP appointments are due to MSK conditions. Self-referral could make a huge difference and reduce pressure on primary care while improving access for patients.
    • The new system will ensure faster triage and picking up of warning signs that could indicate more serious conditions, improving patient safety.
    • Aims to help patients that are anxious about their symptoms and/or pain. When people are anxious, this can worsen pain and may make it harder for their condition to get better. An early phone call to reassure and offer advice can make a huge difference and mean that when they do come in for a physio or other face-to-face appointment, recovery is already underway.
    • It allows NHS staff to work flexibly.

    Digital self-referral for people with musculoskeletal problems and pain  

    HIN Innovation Grants will fund a new project to improve care for people with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions or injuries.
    Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions affect the joints, bones and muscles, and also include rarer autoimmune diseases and back pain. More years are lived with musculoskeletal disability than any other long-term condition. This includes chronic back, hip and knee pain. It is estimated that 30 per cent of GP appointments are due to MSK conditions.

    The project will introduce a new digital self-referral route that will allow for faster triage for people needing MSK treatment. Using a system called Engage Consult, people will be able to self-refer via a website. As well as triaging people for treatment, the site will include pop up information about other local services that could help such as weight management, exercise and walking groups. Over time, the system will link up with other digital technology in use so that patients and clinicians can see and discuss care plans, along with additional education and videos designed to help people manage their condition more easily.

    At the moment, patients are referred via GPs and must first speak to an administrator before receiving a call from the triage team. Digital self-referral will improve this by picking up any worrying signs and symptoms more quickly, without the current gap between the administrator’s call and telephone triage. Engage Consult is able to ask smart questions to screen for sinister problems such as Cauda Equina, Metastatic Cancer ‘Red Flags’, or Charcot. This will allow for screening for serious warning signs from the point of contact, reducing the timeline between someone deciding they need help and the time they receive clinical advice. In some cases, this could have a significant impact on safety.

    Additionally, the new system is expected to speed up telephone triage when it does take place. At present, it can take up to 20 minutes to take a patient’s history over the telephone. By placing the digital history in front of the clinician the length of these calls can be reduced, freeing up staff time to do more triage calls more quickly.

    This means more people can be seen and access can be faster. The service receives approximately 2,000 referrals coming in via GPs every year. Even if only 50 per cent of people decided to go direct to MSK specialists, the impact on GPs and extra capacity in the system would be very significant.

    The project is taking a longer term view and working hard to introduce a modern care model, supported by digital platforms.

    Find out more about our work in MSK


    Innovator Spotlight

    Heather Ritchie, Service Lead and Operational Manager, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, said:

    “MSK affects so many of us and puts huge pressure on primary care. We’re passionate about finding ways to speed up access to our expert team and our management team has supported us to develop and try new ideas.

    If people can get clinical advice more quickly it doesn’t only improve safety, it means that individuals will feel more supported and less anxious. What’s great is that this is additional to the 1-1 care we provide at the moment, so it’s adding a better experience for patients while at the same time removing some of the pressure from our GP colleagues.”

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    By Rita Mogaiji

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