Four questions to ask to ensure digital navigation tools benefit your staff

When implementing digital solutions in a GP practice or across a Primary Care Network (PCN), the focus can often be on the benefits to patients, however, ensuring it supports your workforce is equally as important. Particularly given the current challenges facing the overstretched workforce in primary care and nearly a third (31%) of patients finding it difficult to contact their GP practice.

Digital can play a fundamental role in releasing the capacity of overworked staff, and in turn helping them to improve the way patients are seen and cared for. However, the right tools need to be chosen for the right needs and requirements to deliver maximum benefits.

Here are our top four questions to ask when implementing a care navigation platform, to ensure they are effectively supporting your workforce.

1.Is the user experience favourable for your staff and patients?

Usability and user experience have been longstanding topics for discussion when it comes to the use of digital in the NHS. And rightly so. If staff are struggling to use the digital technology available, it’s not going to be possible to unlock all of the expected benefits. It’s important to choose a solution that is user-friendly and intuitive and can meet the specific needs of your practice or PCN.

By working with the right supplier partner, you can ensure that needs of both staff and patients are met.

2. Have capacity improvements from the care navigation platform been mapped against staff capacity?

Digital tools are proven to help improve accessibility for patients, from calling receptionists to book an appointment to submitting triage forms during the day. However, this requires new ways of working from the practice or across the PCN, in order to respond to these patients given that the number of staff will normally remain the same.

Importantly, the increased accessibility needs to be mapped against the capacity in the surgery/across the community. This could be done, for example, by setting a reasonable patient response time or by dividing the work in the platform between the staff in the unit.

3. Does the digital tool enable better collaboration amongst staff?

The move towards greater collaboration between commissioners and providers as part of PCNs, GP Federations, and Integrated Care Systems, presents significant opportunities for improved healthcare. However, it can be challenging to create a seamless patient flow between different care settings.

The right digital tools can simplify this process and enable real-time collaboration amongst healthcare professionals, breaking down silos and enabling more whole-person care. Make sure that your platform supports this, either by having the functionality within its own system or by meeting all the expected interoperability standards and connecting with other digital solutions.

4. Is the navigation platform giving staff the ability to be more flexible in their work?

The right digital tools should enable healthcare staff to be more flexible with how they work. For example, having consultations with patients virtually when it is clinically appropriate, working remotely (allowing practices and PCNs to pool resources more effectively), and discussing patient cases with other healthcare professionals across care setting boundaries.

When implementing digital triage solutions, considering these factors can support staff to work in new, efficient ways which can significantly help them manage their capacity more effectively which in turn, can boost staff morale and improve patient care.