A six-month trial at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, UK has demonstrated the successful implementation of eTriage, an electronic triage system designed to reduce hospital waiting times by accelerating initial personal assessment.

The software, created by clinician-run med tech company eConsult, can be installed on a tablet and accessed by the patient upon arrival in urgent care, with those who are most at risk flagged by the hospital system.

A patient will input basic personal details, and eTriage will then ask them the same questions about their symptoms as a clinician would ask. This process takes around four minutes, rather than the eight-to-ten minutes typical of a nurse-aided triage appointment, which is often preceded by a lengthy queue at reception.

This allows staff to prioritise those who are most in need, and means that critically ill patients can be identified within minutes of arrival.

An independent Candesic report was commissioned to examine the effectiveness of the eTriage system at Queen Mary’s Sidcup. It assessed 28,417 records from January 2018 to June 2018.

The study found that 99% of patients arriving at the hospital were able to undergo initial assessment within 15 minutes using the eTriage system, putting Queen Mary’s well above the UK’s nationally mandated target of 95%. Of these patients, 85% were able to complete the eTriage process in less than five minutes. It also took 85% of patients less than one minute to check in.

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Time to treatment has also been reduced by an average of seven minutes per patient.

The Department of Health (DoH) states that patients ought to be seen, treated and discharged from or admitted to hospital from an accident and emergency (A&E) visit within four hours of arrival. Queen Mary’s Sidcup has not reported a four-hour breach to the NHS since the trial, maintaining an average patient waiting time of less than two hours.

eConsult’s chief executive Dr Murray Ellender said: “Digital triage prioritises those patients who are most in need. This is much more efficient than the previous system, which addressed patients on a first-come, first served basis.”

Patient and staff feedback about eTriage has been largely positive, eConsult said. Of all patients surveyed, 71% said the service was easy to use and 60% said they felt eTriage helped urgent care provide a better service and would like to see the software available in other healthcare settings such as general practice.

Clinicians also felt largely positive about eTriage, with 58% saying it helped them save time and 64% saying it made them more efficient.

Dr Ellender said: “Face-to-face interaction is an integral part of the patient experience, and eTriage ensures that patient queries are addressed much more quickly. This innovation will save resources and ensure that we continue to deliver the highest standard of care to all patients.”