A hospital in London is one of the first to trial digital triage in its Urgent Care Centres (UCC).

In January 2018, Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup introduced eTriage, a system where patients self-check in and are automatically triaged by clinical need.

All patients who enter the UCC at the hospital, which is part of the Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, are offered digital triage.

The company behind the technology, eConsult, offers an intuitive tablet interface where patients self-check in and are automatically triaged by clinical need.

This eliminates queueing at reception and results in faster movement through the hospital’s system. After entering basic personal details, the patient is asked specific questions about their symptoms, the same questions that a clinician would ask when seeing the patient face-to-face.

The check-in process takes about four minutes (in comparison to a traditional wait to book in at reception, plus an eight to ten-minute face-to-face triage with a nurse) and the patients are seen according to the urgency of their condition.

This allows staff to prioritise those who are most in need, and means that critically ill patents are identified within minutes of arrival.

Since eTriage was introduced, the service has been used over 75,000 times with 99% of visits checked-in and triaged using eTriage.

eConsult’s chief executive, Dr Murray Ellender, said, “Digital triage prioritises those patients who are most in need. This is much more efficient than the previous system, which addressed patients on a first-come, first served basis.

“Face-to-face interaction is an integral part of the patient experience, and eTriage, ensures that patient queries are addressed much more quickly. This innovation will save resources and ensure that we continue to deliver the highest standard of care to all patients.”

Digital Health News spoke to Dr Ellender in 2017 where he admitted that online consultations ‘may not be a silver bullet’ after research revealed low patient interaction.