When is the on-going battle of wasted NHS money due to missed appointments going to end?
With the NHS under significant budget constraints and struggling to achieve targets, it was sad to see the latest NHS Digital figures show that missed patient appointments cost UK taxpayers nearly £1b last year. In 2016/17 there were 7.9 million appointments missed at an average cost of £120 per appointment with 10% of these being from hospital outpatients. Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said “The money wasted could fund 1 million more cataract operations or 250,000 hip replacements”.
John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, also added “The NHS has tried various ways to remind people of their appointments, such as text messaging, but any trusts still relying on letters in the post should look to methods used elsewhere that are cutting missed appointments and saving taxpayers’ cash”.
So what’s on the wish list?
The government looks to digitalise public services in the UK. Patients want a more reliable and personal experience and hospitals look to streamline their appointment booking process. More education is required to make patients feel more involved and in control of their treatment.
Whilst Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, has proposed the idea of issuing fines for patients who do not turn up for appointments, patients have contended that “we routinely ‘miss appointments’ because of the stupid way they are set up. Letters are sent out without any consultation and often arrive late or if they are away from home we don’t receive them till after the appointment date. Why on earth don’t they contact patients and allow them to arrange a mutually convenient time?”
In addition to this, Sally Goldman highlighted that “as hospitals don’t know if the patient is going to turn up they overbook appointments to reach their targets. This often leads to patients having to wait an inordinately long time to be seen. This does not foster respect…for time keeping by patients”.
A more reliable and personal experience
From the patient’s point of view, today’s technology should enable hospitals to notify patients electronically of appointments and reminders. Patients should be able to decide whether to confirm their attendance, re-book for a more convenient time or cancel it if it’s no longer required. Patients should be able to do this whether they are sitting in front of their PC or half-way up a mountain on a mobile device.
The same technology should give patients one interface with all the information they need relating to their appointment; what they need to do prior to attending, where to go, how to get there and when. After consultation, patients should be able to easily access relevant documentation online; copy and discharge letters, post assessments and complete their Friends and Family Test.
Digital first and streamlined processes
Hospitals want visibility of which patients have confirmed appointments or want to cancel and re-book. This helps clinics to better manage utilisation and staffing levels and have tools which allow them to analyse the data and gain insights with just a few clicks of a button. Hospitals want something that is easy for patients and staff to use but is also reliable and secure. Finally, they want a system that enables them to be more productive, frees up staff and allows them to make significant and ongoing savings.
Sound like it's too good to be true?
Working with NHS Acute trusts for over 20 years, at the end of last year we released a digital based ‘Patient Hub’; based on our work with other hospitals to improve the patient experience, reduce DNAs (Did Not Attends) and make significant cost savings.
By providing a secure and easy to use Hub, patients feel more informed and in control. The hospital booking process is streamlined, clinic utilisation is improved and they are one step closer towards their digital transformation.
Patient Hub provides a portal to handle appointment confirmations, rebookings and cancellations. It also allows clinical staff and patients to have secure two-way communications and enables the sharing and completion of a variety of documents:
- Pre-op assessments
- Discharge questionnaires
- Friends and family tests
- Copy letters
The patient experience is further improved by providing information about their procedure along with setting pre/post-op expectations. Moving forward, the Hub will also enable ‘Virtual Waiting Rooms’ and online consultations, which will help save time and reduce unnecessary trips into the hospital.
It’s time to look at new technology that streamlines the hospital booking process, improves clinic utilisation and takes one step closer towards digital transformation.