Appointment management, Healthcare IT, NHS

Processing Patients in Under 60 Seconds

The proverb ‘time is the greatest healer’, rings true in many situations, but falls wide of the mark when taken literally. Healthcare and delays do not make good bedfellows. From the most complicated procedures in emergency medicine, to the cleaning schedule of a hospital’s bathrooms – it is imperative that delays are avoided, and that everything runs like clockwork, with no place more important than the very first point of contact between hospital and patient.

If you read through an NHS booking clerk’s job description, there are a few points that stand out. The description paints the picture of a highly stressful working environment with an attention to deadlines and multitasking – by no means an easy job, especially with the growing demands on the healthcare systems around the country.

The current processes used by many hospitals to ensure patients are booked into the most convenient appointment, involves a combination of paper letters, phone calls, (and in some cases,) one-way automated text messages. The sheer weight of time that it takes to book in a single patient causes an additional strain on admin staff whose workload increases in line with the growing demands on the National Health Service in general.

Changes are part of life, and at DrDoctor making it easier for patients to contact their provider via text message or online when this is necessary helps admin staff stay on top of requests which otherwise would turn into a missed appointment. We work with NHS Trusts around the country to assist them in optimising their patient communications – when we started with one Trust, the average time it took for a booking clerk to process a patient request was 3 minutes 42 seconds, and required the following eight steps;

  1. Open email
  2. Review email content
  3. Find patient in their PAS
  4. Find the next available appointment slot
  5. Call the patient and await a response
  6. Speak to the patient
  7. Update the PAS with their response
  8. Edit the existing letter template and send

We knew we could help cut this down, and implemented our advanced rescheduling solution which alleviated much of the ‘sticky’ points experienced by admin staff by automating certain processes previously done manually. Following a rollout over a month in one specific department, including training sessions for admin teams, as well as internal management, we saw a massive reduction in time spent processing down to 1 minute 8 seconds per patient, taking 5 steps;

  1. Open email
  2. Review email content
  3. Find patient in PAS
  4. Confirm appointment and action
  5. Log on to DrDoctor system and save changes

Having now rolled out our newest solution, Patient Led booking, appointment management we have seen in anecdotal results that it now takes less than one minute. How is this done? Well by empowering the end user, and making it patient-led, the patient takes control of the initial stages of the booking process themselves, and online or through a series of conversational SMS messages, we allow the patient to select the time that works for them, in the clinic selected by the clinician/ hospital.

By taking patients through this digital journey, the transition was not viewed as jarring – for either the patient or admin staff, and uptake of the fully automated system sat at 25%, with only 2% of patients preferring text message communications.

By tackling the delays and complex processes at the very first interaction that patients have with hospitals, we are able to set the wheels in motion for smoother and more precise care, leading to a reduction of costs, happier patients and hospital staff, and a reduction of delays at this critical juncture of care.

Time is a great healer, and by giving it back to overstretched booking clerks, our partners can provide patients with a better service. Essentially this is done by giving patient’s more autonomy to choose what they need at a time that suits them. Interested in learning more? Our team are always happy to talk through advanced features.