Digital Empowerment and ARRS Roles: Strengthening General Practice for Enhanced Patient Care

Following several insightful conversations with various healthcare professionals over the last two weeks, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I believe to be two significant aspects of Primary Care which must be embraced more at all levels, especially within General Practice.

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Today, I’d like to focus on two critical areas: digital enablement of patients and the essential role of Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) personnel in our primary care networks (PCNs).

Digital Enablement

Firstly, let’s discuss digital enablement, a term you’ll increasingly hear in healthcare circles. But what does it really mean? At its core, digital enablement is about empowering patients to take control of their health management through technology. In today’s interconnected world, patients are not only healthcare recipients but also active consumers. This dual role transforms their expectations and requires a more engaging and personalised approach.

Digital tools such as apps and remote monitoring devices are becoming integral in reshaping everyday healthcare. They provide patients with an accessible window into their health status, fostering engagement, understanding, and proactive behaviour. However, we must also address the challenge of patient outreach, ensuring that users comprehend tasks they are required to perform like ordering prescriptions, making health diaries, retrieving test results or scheduling appointments. Therefore, digital health literacy and user-friendly interfaces are pivotal in making these tools genuinely effective.

ARRS Superheroes

Secondly, I’d like to highlight the ARRS staff. These professionals play a crucial role in managing patient load, allowing GPs to focus more on complex patient cases. The roles supported by the ARRS, including pharmacists, social prescribing link workers, physiotherapists, and others, are not just additional staff; they form a crucial part of a multidisciplinary team approach towards integrated patient care. The purpose is not to replace GP services, but to enhance them, relieving pressure on GPs and contributing to an improved patient experience.

With their expertise, ARRS roles can help identify and manage a range of health issues, streamlining patient care and improving health outcomes. They work collaboratively with GPs to address patient needs holistically, enhancing not only health outcomes but also the overall patient experience. Indeed, having these additional roles is like having a team of healthcare superheroes each with their unique powers, ready to deliver comprehensive care.

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Leveraging technology to manage demand

The introduction of the Digital & Transformation Lead ARRS role late last year is a clear testament to the rising significance of digital enablement in Primary Care. This position is designed to support transformation activities in PCNs, primarily focusing on the effective use and adoption of technology. Coupled with changes to the Network DES and the GP contract, it reflects a strategic move towards integrating digital technologies into general practice to enhance patient experience and streamline services. The NHS GP Access Recovery Plan announced this month further underscores this transition. The plan not only pushes for more convenient, faster care for patients but also promotes the goal of enabling nine in ten people to access their GP records, including test results, through the NHS App within a year. This blend of policy updates, role introductions, and strategic plans illuminates the recognition of digital enablement as a cornerstone for the future of primary care in the UK.

At Hanley Consulting we foresaw the need for leveraging technology, in an efficient manner, to aid primary care teams in matching capacity with demand This is what led us to develop our EDATT solution which sits on top of your existing digital tools and improves the patient experience by surfacing the right app/form or link at the right time dependant on the patient need. Our EDATT solution doesn’t just surface the app, but has fully automated digital support in the form of a chatbot which guides the patient through to achieving their desired outcome. 

Whilst Capacity and Access Payments, introduced as part of the new IIF, can be used to hire more staff to add to existing capacity, I believe that it is true digital enablement of patients and properly embedded systems with the ‘right’ functionality (e.g. hub booking) that will help our practices better manage the continuous demand.

PCN Development

Empowering patients with digital access and promoting self-sufficiency not only leads to a reduction in phone calls to the practice but can also increase digital triage allowing for signposting, direct booking into PCN slots which can free up HCA, Nurse and GP capacity in General Practice.  

Empowering patients to utilise digital healthcare solutions like the NHS App or online consultations and digital triage can significantly increase preventative care measures by increasing patient engagement, enabling constant health monitoring, and facilitating early detection and intervention.

The future of primary care is here: it’s digital, integrated, and patient-centred. As we navigate this exciting landscape, remember that every step we take, every innovation we adopt, is ultimately for one purpose – to ensure that our patients receive the best possible care. Let’s move forward together, embracing change, and making this vision a reality.

If you are a healthcare professional working in Primary Care and agree with me, let’s have a conversation about your specific challenges and goals – Book a call


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