Case Study, Community, Learning, NHS, Research

How “The Power of Digital Communications: Improving Outpatient Attendances in South London” was written

Last year the DrDoctor Team came together with one of our clients, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT) to write a paper for the Future Healthcare Journal (FHJ) about the power of digital communications and how we helped GSTT to reduce their ‘do not attend’ (DNA) rates by 17.2%*.

At DrDoctor we place high importance on using evidence-based data to demonstrate the effectiveness of our products and have a commitment to progress the NHS in adopting digital technologies. We felt that publishing our methodology and data collected at GSTT would do the best platform to tick both boxes.

Mark Bartlett, from the CS team, was one of the leads on the paper along with Gina Hobson. We spoke to Mark about the paper, the process and the benefits he sees for doing more papers in the future.

Why was the data collected from GSTT relevant to write up?

One of our contacts Sheena from DigitalHealth.London had a connection at the FHJ and after hearing about the work we had been doing mentioned our data to them. They came back and said it was an interesting topic for us to write about and so it began. The brief for it was to write a case study, GSTT has the highest volume of outpatients, I am the account manager for GSTT, so was close to the project. The data we collected and are still collecting from GSTT is important to showcase the methodology of implementation and to demonstrate an end-to-end project.

How did you go about focusing the narrative of the data to “the power of digital communications”?

Internally we have documented the journey from the beginning with GSTT, including the context around the project and the methodology from the integration, implementation to the roll-out. Due to the scale of outpatients at GSTT (we see 1.8 million appointments in the data sent to us) provided by a workforce of up to 15,000, we also had conducted a lot of internal training with those working at the Trust.

Whenever writing a paper, one of the most important things is the team you bring together to work on it. We were very lucky to have the GSTT team to work with. The joint-authors of the paper were Simon Blazer, Deputy Director of Finance at the Evelina, Dr. Ian Abbs, Chief Medical Officer of Guy’s and St Thomas’ and of course, our internal DrDoctor Team. Simon had done a lot of work into the benefit outcomes of implementing DrDoctor at the Trust and gave valuable insights into how the Trust had benefited from using DrDoctor. He steered the metrics in terms of where the data should be focused and that’s how we decided to tailor to the digital communications aspect.

GSTT is a good example of what success looks like for a Trust with DrDoctor and has provided significant learning on how to roll-out to future partners.

How was the process of pulling the paper together, in terms of timings, refining data, and themes?

We began this paper in June 2017. In terms of the process, we needed to work out the narrative, this is where we got plenty of buy-in from the other collaborators/joint-authors. Once this was completed, we began on creating the first draft of the paper, which was framed in the format provided by the FHJ.

This draft was then submitted to the FHJ and was peer-reviewed. On return, we had to investigate the questions asked and take in amendments. The comments they provide are incredibly detailed and occasionally provide pushback, where we needed to look into what we were saying, refine and expand. One of the comments back was the need for visual and graphical representation to add context and details to the methodology.

Once amended, we submitted the second draft, which was once again peer-reviewed, we incorporated their comments and final submission took place in October 2017.

The paper was peer-reviewed, what does this mean and why is it important?

Having a paper peer-reviewed gives it a bit more rigour, the second kind of validation before it reaches the wider audience. It means that methodologies get checked and content is fact checked by an unbiased group. They also provide a fresh set of eyes on things too. It is also great for us as the experts in our field believe our data is important and worth sharing with the community.

What are the benefits of doing data-driven papers with our clients?

Data-driven papers show that we don’t just have anecdotal evidence, we don’t just think we have seen benefits, it is recognised by the community that we do. The paper being peer-reviewed means it gets a stamp of approval and challenges us with questions to add more detail to our methodologies and narratives. Our journey with GSTT is now able to be followed and cited by others and it is nice to be out there in the public domain. Hopefully, this exposure will help others to see how they can benefit from digital communications and how they can feasibly do it in their own organisations.

Please feel free to cite our paper, if you have any questions about digitalisation in healthcare, and the power of communications we’d be happy to answer them. We’ve sent 22 million text messages in 2017 and have amassed a wealth of data insights – much of which we’d be happy to share with you.

*All statistics are taken from Future Healthcare Journal, 2018, Vol 5, No 1:43-6, The power of digital communications: improving outpatient attendances in south London