July 26, 2022

Digital transformation of physiotherapy services with Vita Health Group

User survey feedback and data insights of Phio's digital physiotherapy services in partnership with Vita Health Group

Collaborative working has enabled Vita to innovate across their services

The use of EQL’s digital MSK triage support tool, Phio Access, has supported leading UK healthcare provider Vita Health Group in optimising routes to care for its Corporate and NHS MSK service users since November 2020.


The partnership has proved to be a good fit as both companies strongly believe that digital transformation is able to change healthcare for the better by broadening access and improving the patient experience. Vita’s holistic person-centred care approach, with its focus on the patient experience, aligns perfectly with EQL’s mission to improve access to healthcare and empower people to self-manage their treatment. 


Phio Access was developed following extensive user research and EQL’s Head of Design, Ivo Pires, has continued to strongly advocate for user research and the importance of spending time understanding a user’s pain points and needs.


Throughout the development process the team repeatedly heard the same feedback: people talking about the ongoing issues and difficulty accessing healthcare and commenting that the waiting time to see a physio after recommendation from their GP was too long.  The user research also discovered that even after visiting a physio and being given a set of exercises to do at home, many people were not doing them —  either because they weren’t confident they were doing them correctly, or because it wasn’t a formed habit and they were simply forgetting to do them. 


Phio Access was designed to solve these problems and going forward the team is broadening its user research by working with multiple patient groups to rapidly validate ideas. The team will prototype new scenarios, workflows or UI in order to remove the pain points and hurdles that patients highlight and then carry out usability investigations to ensure that service users are engaging. 

Jenny Ralls, National Clinical Lead MSK, Vita Health Group

"In terms of safety, it represents a gold standard for our service users."

Customer surveys evidence the improved user experience

A recent customer survey carried out by Vita Health Group on its corporate members confirmed that EQL’s user-centric focus during design and development and the success of the collaborative work between the two partners has allowed the group to offer people a service which improves access, removes waiting times and brings care closer to home.

Likewise, a recent survey of Vita Health Group’s NHS services found that 70% of respondents liked being able to complete the assessment at any time that suited them, taking advantage of 24/7 access and the flexibility to access services to suit their lifestyle (rather than be forced to attend appointments during the ‘working’ day). Of the respondents, 35% said they liked being able to access triage support without going into a clinic and 32% specifically said they liked using their phone to complete the assessment. Separate feedback on ease of use validated all the user research which informed the design ­— with an 90.8% completion rate and the oldest user being 93 years old.


Crucially using Phio Access is easing access to healthcare for Vita’s service users by enabling them to complete an assessment at a preferred time and location. The app is speedily and effectively signposting patients into evidenced-based pathways of care, so the most appropriate investigations or treatments are provided. (Supporting people in accessing the right care, first time.)

Patients completing the digital assessment are recommended a pathway outcome matched to their answers and preference, which includes A&E, 111, GP, Physiotherapy and Self-Management. 


During the year to April 2022, just over 8% of the patients triaged were referred for urgent care — either an urgent physio appointment, calling 111 or attending A&E. Importantly almost 2% of those were completed and flagged out of traditional working hours, they were not forced to wait until the next working day to be triaged. 

In one case a patient completed an assessment and was signposted to an advanced physiotherapy practitioner. Following that face-to-face appointment, he was referred on to rheumatology. The journey from completing Phio assessment to referral to rheumatology took two weeks and demonstrates how Phio Access can contribute to reducing the delay to appropriate referral and diagnosis thus improving a patient’s experience and prognosis.

Getting it right first time, safely

Phio Access has been subjected to robust testing and the triage outcomes tested against Advanced MSK Physiotherapist Practitioners achieving a total of >95% agreement rate on pathway signposting and 100% agreement on safety. This rate coupled with a high usability score (average net promoter score 7/10), demonstrate that Phio Access can support MSK services in achieving the national programme of ‘getting it right first time’ (GIRFT).

Jenny Ralls, National Clinical Lead MSK, Vita Health Group said: “Phio gives consistent, safe decisions with the expertise, balance and evidence base equivalent to a panel of our advanced therapists. It avoids the pitfalls of human error and lapses of concentration endemic in human assessment, which is why we believe that in terms of safety it represents a gold standard for our service users.”


Together, with Vita, we look forward to extending our work and helping more of their members access healthcare in way that they find fast, and easy to use.

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