In 2012, the after hours clinic in Apeldoorn noticed that the telephone lines were becoming increasingly busy. The workload was increasing and waiting times were rising. Combined with a limited supply of triage specialists, this created a problem. How could the after hours clinic meet the increasing demand and still provide the right care in the right place?
By allowing patients to perform triage themselves, they can quickly find out whether they need to see a doctor and, if so, when. In the knowledge that, on average, 42% of callers in the Netherlands are of low priority, we believe that this is the best solution for the workload of after hours clinics.
But, of course, this problem did not only occur in Apeldoorn, nationwide more and more after hours clinics were confronted with this problem. That is why, with the support of a number of insurers, this initiative was continued independently. So, Do I need to see the doctor? went out on its own. In the years that followed, the app and the underlying system were developed further, more functionality became available and it was actively promoted to users.
The biggest leap forward came in 2018, when it became possible for after hours clinic and GP practices to offer digital self-triage under their own name.
In 2021, the Do I need to see the doctor?mobile app was downloaded more than half a million times, more than 50% of the Dutch GP Service Structures offer our digital self-triage to their patients, we integrate with widely used systems in GP services such as VCare, Medgemak and Uw Zorg Online and, in collaboration with the University of Antwerp, digital self-triage is being used at several waiting centres in Flanders, with a broader launch planned for 2022.
Why we are doing this?
We can see that there is a capacity shortage in primary emergency care and that this shortage will only increase in the near future due to an ever-increasing demand. We believe that digital self-triage can help reduce the burden on staff in the short term, reducing downtime and making more time available for highly-urgent patients.
All the focus in healthcare innovation seems to be on digitalisation at the back end of the healthcare process, rather than at the beginning of the patient journey. We believe that there is still a whole world to be won at the front end!
Our long-term vision is that user-friendly and easily accessible digital self-triage will become the first step of the digital intake in the healthcare process. By integrating with the various systems in this complex landscape, we can ensure that the right question is put in the right place without unnecessary actions – resulting in the right care in the right place.
Society continues to change: growing and shrinking populations present additional challenges in combination with patients who expect to be helped outside office hours. GPs who are just starting out are increasingly reluctant to run their own practices and health insurers are struggling with their duty of care. Digitalisation can not only bridge distances, but also partly relieve the burden on healthcare providers and reassure patients.
What we have learned
In recent years, we have learned that user-friendliness and smart data are crucial for the success of applications. We believe that “if nobody wants to use it and you can’t measure its usage, it doesn’t matter how good your idea is”.
That is why, as an organisation, we will continue to invest primarily in these 2 key areas in the coming years. We do this by collaborating with experts in the outside world and building up knowledge internally. By working together with our customers in the field – after hours clinic and GP practices – we can maintain a constant connection with the people for whom it is done.