Research gives insights into how technology can help deliver urgent care

By Jo Makosinski | Published: 15-May-2023

Calls needing clinical care within two hours reduced by 50% using secondary triage


Leading academics at the University of Warwick and Exeter have published research that gives insights into the ways in which decision support tools assist staff delivering urgent care within the NHS. 

The publication highlights the potential efficiency and safety benefits of using Odyssey, a clinical decision support solution produced by software company, Advanced, as a tool to identify patients’ needs following triage by NHS 111.

The findings, published in the British Journal of General Practice this week, compare real-world triage outcomes between NHS Pathways – the decision support tool used by NHS 111 – and secondary triage of the same calls by clinicians in urgent care services using Odyssey decision support software. 

Odyssey helps ensure patients with urgent and primary care health problems receive fast, accurate, safe assessment and advice. And it covers the needs of all age groups and the full range of symptoms and acute conditions. 

Making a comparison

Secondary triage by urgent care services is commonly used as a means of ensuring patients’ needs are correctly prioritised and managing potentially-overwhelming workload pressures. 

Until now, though, there has been little known on how secondary triage outcomes compare to the initial primary triage undertaken by NHS 111. 

In this research, a team of academics analysed patient data that included 99,000 calls with matched primary (NHS Pathways) and secondary triage (Odyssey) outcomes. 

The key finding was that the primary triage from the NHS 111 assessment was changed following secondary triage in urgent care in 86% of calls:

  • The urgency for 74% calls were downgraded; highlighting the potential efficiency benefits for urgent care of triage supported by Odyssey
  • Within this, the proportion of calls triaged as needing clinical care within two hours was downgraded from 71.2% to 20.3%, included a reduction from 36.9% to 5.7% for the triage outcome of care within an hour, and 34.3% to 14.6% for care within 1-2 hours
  • In addition, 17.6% of calls were downgraded to self-care advice and 10.8% to a routine in-hours appointment with a GP, signposting patients away from urgent care services
  • 12% calls were upgraded (with 2.1% of all calls re-classified as medical emergencies requiring transfer to the 999 ambulance service); indicating the added safety benefit from secondary triage supported by Odyssey, potentially saving patients’ lives

Sumera Shahaney, medical director for health and care at Advanced, said of the findings: “Advanced welcomes these findings demonstrating how Odyssey is helping to drastically reduce workloads and free up time and resources for frontline staff to deliver essential patient care.” 

Odyssey is a clinical decision support system which has uniquely had NICE accreditation for over a decade.

Since its launch it has safely supported over 30 million assessments worldwide; with no serious significant events ever reported.

And it is currently being used in a wide range of healthcare settings, including urgent care centres, community, GPs, and emergency departments in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. 

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