Looking back at 2023: Leveraging technology to enhance patient engagement

21st December 2023

by John Clarke

As we stumbled into 2023, the NHS, across the whole of the country was still facing the formidable task of tackling the backlog of patient appointments accumulated during the Covid-19 pandemic at a time of extreme unfunded inflationary pressures.

Looking back, it was hard to write an exhaustive list of pressures in healthcare, it is like a very tired but determined marathon runner; working so hard for so long, exhausted but determined to provide the best care it can to everyone who needs it.

Whilst recognising the NHS’s significant organisational resiliency, many of the burning issues had been around for a long time and would not be easily solved. Technology can be a new disrupter to these problems and help provide new options to tackle these long-standing issues. Looking at our wide product set, skills and talented staff we set about focusing our efforts to look at how we could help to provide support and improvement opportunities across many key domains/issues. Some of those we, at Netcall, could impact on were:

  • Persistent backlog of patient appointments
  • Staff shortages and workforce burnout
  • Financial constraints and resource limitations
  • Digital divide and technology adoption challenges
  • Increasing demand for healthcare services
  • Rising healthcare costs and affordability concerns
  • Health inequalities and social determinants of health
  • Streamlining Patient Communication and Appointment Management

Our challenge was clear. Doing more of the same, but faster, was not the solution.

We needed to focus our efforts on supporting the NHS’s efforts to improve patient care and optimise healthcare resources using our technologies to create new ways of working, new opportunities to transform and to leverage the shift to digital engagement channels whose acceptance were significantly accelerated as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our patient engagement portal

So, by looking back at 2023 through the lens of just one of our solutions, our patient engagement portal – Patient Hub – we can see the positive impact we have had.

Our digital health platform helped revolutionised patient communication and appointment management across many parts of the UK. For example, in England, alongside seamless integration with the NHS App, this comprehensive solution facilitated secure messaging, convenient appointment scheduling, and timely reminders, markedly elevating the patient experience.

Looking at our work with Patient Hub, we have:

  • 10.2 million notifications sent out by our NHS customers in 2023 using Patient Hub. This year our NHS customers sent out over 10.2 million notifications via our patient engagement portal, Patient Hub. And managed over 2.3 million individual appointments. All contributing to reduced waiting times and improved access to care for patients up and down the UK and enhancing patient experience.
  • £11.2 million saved from being wasted. Working with our NHS customers, we’ve helped to significantly reduce DNAs and saved over £11.2m from being wasted, leading to enhanced patient experiences and outcomes.
  • 25 new deployments of Patient Hub in 2023. We’re proud to have deployed our patient engagement solutions in many Trusts and Boards across the UK this year. Welcome to the Netcall family! 
  • Average patient uptake at 72%. It’s clear patients love to use our intuitive tools.

By providing patients with a self-service portal, we’ve empowered them to manage their appointments and inquiries independently, reducing the burden on healthcare staff. This digital approach not only streamlined patient processes but also freed up valuable time for healthcare professionals to focus on providing direct patient care.

Earlier in the year we showcased the fantastic deployment at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. As an ex-NHS manager, it is hard to overlook their stated annualised savings achieved from not printing/posting letters of £232k per annum. However, my eye was immediately drawn to the comment of one of their patients, Louis.

“Previously, it has not been possible for me, as a blind/visually impaired person, to manage my appointment bookings, and especially difficult for me to manage my letters… Patient Hub is a simple, secure, easy-to-use and, most importantly, accessible system that allows people like myself to manage our appointments and read our letters without any assistance required. I’m incredibly grateful to the team behind this system. This new system gives me much hope for the future.”


Patient, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Whilst digital inclusion does remain a problem, we must remember that digital is also an enabler. When done appropriately and increasingly, it’s a lifeline for many to a chaotic world.

A partnership for transformative healthcare

Netcall’s commitment to innovation and collaboration has enabled the NHS to navigate some of the challenges of 2023 and emerge a little stronger. By providing intelligent automation, patient engagement, and communication solutions, Netcall has played a vital role in improving patient care, reducing waiting times, optimising resource utilisation, and amplifying collaboration among healthcare providers.

As the NHS, across all parts of the UK, continues its journey towards enhanced patient care and operational efficiency, Netcall stands as a trusted partner, providing cutting-edge solutions that empower healthcare professionals to deliver the best possible care to patients across the UK.

A peek at 2024: Hitting the accelerator pedal

The majority of the challenges that the NHS had for 2023 have not gone away. Some have got worse. To achieve the changes that address the challenges in healthcare, the need to have the patient at the centre of all the new solutions and design work is evermore paramount.

We’ll see the role in gaining a holistic view of both the patient and their interactions become more prevalent, enabling actionable insights and increasingly personalised healthcare experiences. The lessons learned from 2023 are being fed into the new tools for 2024; focusing on fostering patient engagement, the smooth orchestration of patient centric processes and improved supply chain / resource management. This will lead to enhanced patient satisfaction, improved clinical outcomes and the strengthening of relationships.

Amplifying collaboration and information sharing

The role of the collaborative approach, both within care systems and boards and beyond, will redefine healthcare technology. The approach taken by pioneering projects over the past few years, such as EMRAD, can demonstrate the value of collaboration. However, the technology to make this happen has not been easy. In 2024, we’ll see the launch of new products from Netcall that will help organisations come together to deliver a seamless service for patients, focusing on the journey and outcome rather than the organisation.

Leveraging AI for enhanced scheduling and pre-appointment communication

Netcall’s AI-powered scheduling solutions will further enhance the efficiency of appointment management within the NHS. By analysing historical appointment data and patient preferences, these solutions will intelligently recommend suitable appointment slots, reducing the time and effort required for staff to find available slots.

This AI-driven approach will not only improve the scheduling process but also enhance patient satisfaction by offering them preferred appointment times. Additionally, Netcall’s pre-appointment communication tools will continue enable automated reminders, consent forms, and pre-screening questionnaires, streamlining the pre-appointment process and ensuring patients arrived at their appointments prepared and informed.

Early 2024 resolution: Let’s talk and share more

Watch the first of a series of webinars for 2024: CIO Conversations: Going Digital with Diagnostics

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Supporting the NHS since 1985

Netcall is proud to be a long-standing partner of the NHS over the last 25 years, transforming communication services, improving access to healthcare, making patient experiences more positive, and optimising operational efficiency. Our commitment has helped the NHS make a difference to patients’ lives.

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