LONDON, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 1,000 National Health Service patients successfully booked flu vaccinations this year using a groundbreaking virtual assistant developed by digital health innovator Sensely, the company announced today. The pilot project, run in collaboration with GP practices in Buckinghamshire, Brent, and Greenwich, empowered patients to use the Ask NHS app, which is already trusted by more than 375,000 NHS patients, to self-check eligibility and quickly make appointments for flu jabs.
Launched in 2017, the free-to-use Ask NHS app lets users easily check symptoms, book clinician appointments, access self-care resources, and connect with live video consultations. Sophisticated Natural Language Processing (NLP) and speech recognition technologies make the conversational interface easy to use, while freeing up doctors and nurses' time and reducing per-patient NHS costs by as much as 14.4%.
Adding vaccination information, a self-service eligibility check, and booking functionality to Ask NHS lets patients, protect themselves and loved ones, quickly get the information they need and make appointments without having to call their clinic. Designed in partnership with NHS nurses, the tool also allows high-risk patients to be prioritised based on symptoms or underlying health issues, improving access to vaccinations for vulnerable patients while easing the strain on healthcare providers.
"The Ask NHS app has been invaluable in allowing us to streamline our operations during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Dr Arun Notaney, a GP at Premier Medical Centre in Brent, London. "Giving patients the ability to book via the app, rather than calling, has really improved the patient journey, and left our phone lines clear for patients who need to speak to a doctor rather than just to book a flu jab."
In some clinics, as many as 40% of bookings were made using Ask NHS rather than waiting in phone queues to speak to clinic staff. Patients praised the app for making it quick and easy to get information or make bookings, even outside of regular office hours. "I thought it was really straightforward. It worked really well, and I was able to book in for a Saturday appointment," said Paula McGinn, a patient from Buckinghamshire.
The first-of-its-kind project sets the stage for the more widespread use of virtual assistants as the UK begins to roll out COVID-19 vaccines. Sensely is currently developing COVID-specific virtual tools, and plans to begin supporting NHS coronavirus vaccination efforts with customised virtual assistant technologies in early 2021.
"During the pandemic, more people than ever are getting flu shots — but that places an enormous strain on clinics, and those challenges will only increase as we roll out COVID-19 vaccines," says Sensely CEO Adam Odessky. "Our top priority, now and always, is to support the NHS and ensure patients get vaccinations quickly and easily. By using next-gen digital tools as part of an omnichannel strategy, we're empowering patients to take ownership of their healthcare journey, and protect their families while easing the burden on hardworking doctors and nurses."
Sensely's avatar and chatbot-based platforms assist insurance plan members and patients with the insurance services and healthcare resources they need, when they need it. With offices in London and San Francisco, Sensely's global teams provide virtual assistant solutions to insurance companies, pharmaceutical clients, and hospital systems worldwide. For more information, please visit www.sensely.com.