Triage apps or symptoms checkers that provide a likely or direct diagnosis and recommend treatments are classed as medical devices and as such are regulated by the MHRA.
The CQC will not be assessing the apps or technology themselves, but how the practice uses it as part of the care it offers. The change follows legal advice the CQC received in September.
Inspectors will consider how those who procured the triage solution – whether it was the practice, CCG or federation – were assured of the system's safety, the training staff have received and how staff are made aware of any updates to the system. They will also look at whether practices have processes in place for responding to and learning from any adverse incidents that happen as a result of using a triage app or system.
In a blog post at the end of January CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field wrote: ‘In September 2018, following legal counsel, it was agreed that CQC should consider triage apps as "ancillary activities" where they are part of a pathway of care. This means that they come under the scope of CQC’s regulations whether done by an individual or electronically; within the provider’s premises or contracted out to a third-party supplier; in independent health or NHS.
‘We will explore how the triage solution is being used to make sure that care is safe and high quality.’
Professor Field added that a growing number of providers and practices were making use of triage apps.
Ruth Rankine, deputy chief inspector of general practice at the CQC said: ‘Where we see new technology becoming linked with direct patient care, the way people access services is changing. As new systems develop, we need to make sure that people are still able to access the appropriate, high quality care that they deserve.
‘As a regulator, it is important that we continually adapt our approach so that regulation takes account of the different ways that care is delivered to people, and our reports provide a clear picture of the care that people can expect.’