We are excited to announce that Spectra has won an InnovateUK grant to develop AI triage for primary care with the University of Manchester. The aim is to reduce GP workload and alleviate the mounting pressures on NHS primary care.
Primary care is the foundation of the NHS, accounting for 90% of all NHS contacts; over 340m consultations per year. Over recent years it has come under significant strain due to increasing demand, a hiring/retention crisis, and budget constraints. The pressure is exacerbated by avoidable GP consultations where patients should more appropriately self-care or consulting other healthcare professionals such as a nurse or pharmacist. This puts GP practices under unnecessary strain, and endangers patients who cannot see a GP when required. This problem is caused by a lack of effective triage processes – deciding where to send patients – which often rely on non-clinical staff such as receptionists. An estimated 27% of consultations are avoidable, with 6% of patients seen by another professional within the practice and 4% seeing pharmacists or using self-care .
The implementation of effective triage processes could dramatically reduce the workload on GP practices. In one approach, ‘Telephone First Triage’, GPs triage patients during a callback phone call when an appointment is requested. However, new research found that whilst face-to-face appointments fell 38% on average, telephone consultations increased 12-fold, increasing average GP workload by 8% . In addition to its questionable effectiveness, telephone triage is not scalable as it requires constant support from GPs.
An alternative approach is to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) based triage. AI triage is well-suited to primary care due to the large amount of patient data, which allows the algorithm to identify both common more unusual ailments. In this feasibility study, we intend to evaluate the efficacy and impact of AI triage in primary care.
 Primary Care Foundation & NHS Alliance, 2015, Making Time in General Practice
 BMJ, 2017, Evaluation of telephone first approach to demand management in English general practice