The next release of inter-organisational working is currently in development with an anticipated release in November.  This release will enhance this feature so organisations can share and cover colleagues and groups in the same way they do for groups and colleagues at their own organisation.  This will considerably increase the potential value of Engage Consult within networks of practices, and with other service providers such as extended access and out of hours.  

Using Engage Consult practices can electronically assign requests to groups or colleagues at other organisations.  This can be used to ask for help from a specialist clinician working at another organisation.  It can also be used to direct requests to teams which support a group of practices, for example, a central team dealing with care home requests for a PCN.  Having the capability of working across organisations can help with business continuity if staff numbers are depleted due to flu or coronavirus.

There’s a real opportunity to improve the efficiency of groups of practices by allowing virtual teams (who may be based at different locations) to focus on dealing with online requests for the whole group.  PCNs can set up virtual teams to deal with incoming requests either using a hub and spoke or star model of connections.  All requests can be handled by the team in the first instance and passed back to the patient’s practice where the central team assesses a need for this to happen.

PCNs could configure an option for care homes to send all their routine medical and admin requests to a central team at the PCN.  That team can then deal with all those requests and answer the care homes with secure online messaging or the video consultation option available in Engage Consult.  There is currently a pilot underway with care homes using a hub and spoke model, assessing how effective this is.

As Engage Consult can be accessed remotely by staff, anyone having to self isolate, or who is unable to physically get to work (maybe because of bad weather), could be tasked to support their colleagues by handling or assigning requests; this can be within their organisation or to other organisations.

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Practices can configure their system so that their Out of Hours and Extended Access provider can check their incoming requests and deal with them when the practice is closed.  This can provide extra capacity if these services aren’t being fully utilised already, or could be used to provide additional capacity at peak times by commissioning additional resources.

At all times Engage Consult takes account of a patient’s data sharing preference.  If a patient has decided not to share their data with other healthcare organisations then only their practice will be able to see the request.  Should the patient’s practice feel they need to override the patient’s preference not to share their request, it can, but will be prompted to provide a reason for overriding the patient’s preference.

We understand that as part of implementing any kind of inter-organisational working you need to consider the practical steps and information governance required to make your new systems and processes work, and that this takes time.  This is why we’re advising you of these upcoming changes now, so you can start thinking about, and putting in place, new ways of working which will be enabled by these new features in Engage Consult.  Should you want us to help you manage the change needed, to benefit from these new ways of working, please get in touch.