A free web app that overcomes erroneous search results from NHS Choices has been launched by AskMyGP, to help ease winter pressures on doctor’s surgeries. 

The online GP consultation platform has developed a unique smart search algorithm that directs patients to content from the NHS Choices website.

AskMyGP founder Harry Longman came up with the idea for the algorithm after discovering the search bar on the NHS Choices website had a weak spot.

For example, if you search “Back of knee hurting” in the search bar, you get “La Bomba dance workout video”.

If you put the same thing into AskMyGP, you go straight to knee pain and its potential causes on NHS Choices.

It is a similar story for misspellings: “had coff [sic] for over 5 weeks”, gets you “Norman’s Hip Op video”, for example.

“What patients want is a smart but sympathetic search which won’t quibble over how they spell diarrhoea (we’ve found the right page with hundreds of spellings in AskMyGP, from ‘diria’ to ‘dhearrorrea’),” Longman said.

Longman, who was awarded the John Perry Prize in 2014, said the search algorithm was also a way of easing pressures on GPs.

“Essentially we are trying to help with self-care,” Longman told Digital Health News.

“The burden of winter pressures will continue so we need to look at how we are going to deal with it.

“The answer is GPs need to be more efficient and I believe this helps them achieve that.”

From this month, the web app will be available for free to all NHS practices and organisations.

Longman added: “We’re giving away the very best we can offer to help patients self-care.

“The AskMyGP web search app is available from January 2018 to all NHS practices and organisations – no strings attached. It’s free, for everyone and for anything.”

AskMyGP was launched in 2011 with the aim of transforming patient access to healthcare and cutting down on unnecessary appointments.

The platform gives patients the option of submitting a symptom-related questionnaire online to a GP.

When a patient visits the practice’s website, they are presented with the usual contact information as well as a ‘quick access’ option that takes them to the AskMyGP page.

There, the user is given the option of finding advice on their condition on NHS Choices, or they can start the online process to get in touch with the practice.

Its developers state over 29,000 patient episodes have been managed in only a dozen practices.