Before patients submit requests
Our approach means that only 0.26% of requests submitted via Patchs end up being deemed emergencies by GP practice staff (or 26 in every 10,000). This includes requests which should be dealt with by GP practices on the same day, not just those that need 999 or A&E.
- Confirm / update contact details prompt.
Patients are shown their contact details (phone number and email address) and given the opportunity to update them before they submit their request. This way you know they're up to date and can contact the patient as needed.
- Patients describe their problems as free text answers to open-ended questions, rather than responding to multiple choice questions.
Read this article to find out why this approach is safer.
You can create your own message for patients to see when Patchs is unavailable. For example, you can advise them what to do if they need urgent help (e.g. call the practice or a local OOH service when you're closed).
- Additional warning for admin and medication requests.
Patients are advised not to use these options to discuss health problems. When Patchs is closed for clinical requests patients are again specifically advised not to use admin or medical requests for health problems.
After patients submit requests
- Confirmation page message. After submitting their request patients see a message that:
- Re-iterates that you will respond during your opening hours by a written message or by phone.
- Prompts them to update their contact details (phone number and email address) if they're wrong.
- Advises them to call you if they have not heard from you in a certain number of working hours (that you set yourself) or their symptoms change.
- Advises them to call 111 if they need help outside your opening hours.
- Confirmation email. The above information is also sent to the patient in an email.
GP practice side
Dealing with patient requests
- Inbox flags and ordering. You can mark requests as either urgent or emergency. This will send them to the top of the inbox with an orange or red flag, respectively. This highlights important requests, so that you and your colleagues know which need dealing with first.
- Warning when patients are writing a request. In the Unassigned inbox you are told how many patients are currently writing a request, so that you can decide not to close Patchs if you don't want to receive patient requests when you're not open. Patients have 30 minutes to submit their request once they've started writing it.
Red flag question notification. If a patient says 'yes' to the red flag question, but ignores the advice to contact 999/A&E, then goes back, changes their answer, and submits a request anyway, this is highlighted in the request details page.
- Ability to mark yourself 'Out of Office'. You can mark yourself as 'out of office' so colleagues don't send you work when you're away.
- Request limiter. This is to ensure you only get as many patient requests as you can handle, and you can turn Patchs off when you are closed (if you want).
- On/Off switches. You can quickly turn Patchs off if you're becoming overwhelmed with patient demand.
- Booked slots. You can assign patient requests to future dates to spread demand and ensure you are not overwhelmed. You don't have to deal with all Patchs requests on the same day.
- Unable to assign urgent or emergency requests too far in the future. In Patchs, urgent requests are meant to be resolved within 48 hours, and emergency requests are meant to be dealt with on the same day. If you have the 'booked slots' feature enabled, you are unable to assign urgent requests more than 48 hours in the future. You are unable to assign emergency requests to a future date at all.
- Patient matching. Each time a new patient or guest user submits a request, their details are looked up on Personal Demographics Service (PDS) to check they are registered at your practice.
- Contact details verification warning. Each time a new patient submits a request, a guest user submits a request, or a patient changes their details in Patchs, you are advised to verify their contact details to ensure that they are who they say they are.
- Outstanding requests and tasks in colleague's inboxes. In the inbox dropdown menu, the number in brackets is the number of requests and tasks in a colleague's inbox. This can tell you if there is any outstanding work that needs completing. For example, if that colleague is unexpectedly absent or struggling with their workload.
- Accessing colleague's inboxes. You can easily access the inboxes and tasks of your colleagues in the inbox dropdown menu to complete any outstanding work if needed.
Sending messages to patients
- Delivery receipts. You can see whether email and/or SMS messages have been successfully delivered.
- Message opened. You can see from the status of the message and in the chatbot whether a patient has opened any 'Reply not required' message you send.
- Failed delivery notifications. If a message fails to deliver (e.g. the patients phone number is wrong or their email inbox is full) you receive a message back to your inbox informing you.
- 'Awaiting Response' inbox. All messages waiting for a patient response go to the 'Awaiting Response' inbox so you can keep track of who hasn't responded yet.
- Patient replies go to the Unassigned inbox. If you keep a request in your inbox and send the patient a message, their reply will come directly back to you. However, if you remove that request from your inbox, the response will come to the Unassigned inbox so that if you're not at work someone else will see it.
- Patient reminders. Patients can get reminders about messages they haven't yet read or replied to.
Patchs AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Please read this article for further information on Patchs AI.
- Urgency AI. Flags patient requests as urgent or emergency as soon as they are submitted.
- Signpost AI. Signposts patients away to self-care, NHS 111, or emergency services as appropriate.
- Topic AI. Works out the clinical topics of a patient request and can be used to ask patients further questions before they submit their request.
- Assign AI. Assigns requests to a ‘Clinical’ inbox if they need input from a clinician.
- Face-to-Face (F2F) AI. Highlights requests that may need an in-person consultation so they can be booked in sooner.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why can patients submit requests without being verified as registered at your practice?
When patients submit requests they are automatically matched to your patient list. Even if a patient isn't matched, they can still submit a request on Patchs. This is because patients often spell their name differently, or input their details incorrectly, compared to what's held on their clinical record. Most NHS online consultation systems work like this.
If a GP practice had to verify each patient was registered with them before they could submit a request, it would delay patients getting they care they need. It would also be a big burden on the practice to ensure they kept up to date. Patients may also decide to phone up the practice for help, which defeats the purpose of Patchs.
When patients use Patchs they must tick a box to confirm they’re registered your practice. They also agree to only use Patchs at their registered GP practice in the End User License Agreement.
We're not aware of any patients using Patchs at practices they're not registered at. But if they did, it would be the same as if a patient rang your practice who wasn’t registered. You wouldn’t have to consult them - you would tell them to call their own practice, or to call 111 or 999 as appropriate.