A digital physiotherapy tool has the potential to save more than £1m annually in Wales, results from a pilot suggest.

The pilot of PhysioNow supported more than 1,000 musculoskeletal patients across Cwm Taf Morgannwg and Hywel Dda health boards access medical care and advice.

Initial results of the pilot suggest it could create more than £1million of annual savings if rolled out across the country, with 69% of users feeling they received faster access to physiotherapy.

PhysioNow is a clinically led chatbot that provides remote triage and support for musculoskeletal conditions. Patients using the service are guided to the right pathway for their needs, enabling them to access the right care at the right time.

In August 2020, it was rapidly introduced within NHS environments in the health board target areas, by Connect Health and its partners, EQL and PhysioSpace Cardiff.

Professor Andrew Walton, group executive director of Connect Health, said: “We strive to be at the forefront of innovation and have been very active in the use of digital health to support people during these challenging times.

“Our tool puts patients in the driving seat, empowering them to take ownership of their health.”

Zoe Brewster, assistant head of physiotherapy, Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board, added: “PhysioNow is bringing benefits to our team of physiotherapists, providing important information about a patient’s condition before they even set foot in the clinic and helping us to streamline our services and treat those patients most in need.”

The four-month, project commissioned by Connect Health and coordinated by Digital Health Ecosystem Wales, was funded by the Covid-19 digital solutions fund to explore ways technology could be used in response to the pandemic and in the future.

Work is now underway to expand the pilot to the 887,000 people in Wales living with musculoskeletal conditions.

Further results of the pilot found 81% of users would recommend the service to friends, 75% said it was easy to describe their symptoms, and one third used the service outside of core office hours at a time when it was convenient for them.

Abi Phillips, head of innovation, economy skills and natural resources group, for the Welsh Government, said: “PhysioNow is a great example of how we can enable patients to access services from a device when and where they wish to. Covid-19 has pushed us all to think differently, and this project has demonstrated the level of impact that can be achieved in a short timeframe.”