A year after NHS services across the West Midlands began trialling a virtual health assistant app, an alliance of CCGs has said it has seen positive results.

Since April 2017, around 4.5 million people living in the area were given access the Ask NHS app.

The app uses an evidence driven system based on statistical analysis to help guide self-assessment of acute symptoms and direct patients to the most appropriate services

This means patients can:

  • Check symptoms via the app’s symptom checker, delivered by voice through the app’s interactive virtual health assistant, or via the app’s text mode chatbot
  • Book GP appointments, where available. Patients are given a choice of available appointment times and can book or cancel appointments directly from the app
  • Find local NHS services using the NHS Directory of Service (DoS)

The West Midlands Integrated Urgent Care Alliance, which is comprised of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG and 16 other CCGs across the West Midlands, trialled the technology, which was created by Sensely and Advanced.

Since the app was launched, the alliance has said 63% of the completed Ask NHS symptom checker outcomes led to a recommendation to contact 111, 14% to schedule a GP appointment, 12% to follow self-care advice and 12% to call 999.

Rachael Ellis, chief officer at Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG and lead on Integrated Urgent Care in the West Midlands region, said: “The Ask NHS app provides patients with on-demand access to NHS services 24/7. We want to make it as easy as possible for patients to obtain medical advice in the way that best suits them. For some, using the app is the most convenient. Patient safety and quality are, of course, our top priorities, but offering patient choice is also important and we believe the app helps us do that.”

The app is integrated with NHS 111, EMIS and NHS Choices, as well as being NHS Spine compliant.

It uses Sensely’s learning engine and Advanced’s Clinical Decision Support (CDS) technology.

Sticking with the West Midlands, back in October 2016, Digital Health News reported how Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust and System C had transferred all the child health department data from the region onto the company’s CarePlus software.

The integrated child health system covers Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Herefordshire, Sandwell, Shropshire, Solihull, Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Telford and Wrekin, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton and Worcestershire.