Digital triage in health services

Page last updated: 12 May 2022

Our first pilot focused on the use of digital triage tools in healthcare services.

A digital triage tool is software that tells a patient what to do or where to go next in their care pathway. It can be software that:

  • supports clinicians to make decisions
  • supports non-clinical staff to interact with patients
  • people interact with themselves

What we did

We worked with healthcare providers, people who use services, clinicians, technology suppliers, and other stakeholders.

Together we agreed what care providers and tech suppliers need to do so that people receive high-quality care through these tools. We used this to identify and consider how to update our methods - to help us regulate these services better.

We also considered how other parts of the healthcare system could support high-quality care.

What we found

Key findings from this sandbox:

  • care providers and local systems need better guidance and support from national bodies when they commission technology suppliers and set up contracts - a standard test of the effectiveness of triage algorithms would help providers and systems choose the best products
  • digital triage tools should help people to get care in the right place at the right time, and should not prevent this - clinicians should be able to override the recommendations from these tools when they think it is in a person’s best interest
  • people need to understand the difference between a digital triage tool that checks their symptoms and one that directs them to a regulated healthcare service - they also need clearer guidance on how to use them.
  • we need to understand how safeguarding can work when people are using digital interfaces instead of humans
  • technology suppliers that don’t need to register with CQC should meet all other relevant regulatory requirements when developing clinical pathways for triage tools - this area has limited assurance or regulation, reinstating the accreditation scheme from NICE or something similar would help
  • the insight and data from digital triage tools provide an excellent opportunity to improve care - we need to work collectively to understand how best to do this

Regulators' Pioneer Fund

This was made possible by a grant from the £10m Regulators’ Pioneer Fund launched by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and administered by Innovate UK.