Newsroom 04 March 2020

Online appointment management for Southampton patients set to free up time and resources


University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust is streamlining appointment admin and reducing paper waste with a new online appointment management portal

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) – which is recognised as Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) by NHS England – is taking its patient experience to the next level. Following a successful trial of Netcall’s Patient Hub, the Trust is rolling out the digital portal across all departments from April. This will make it easy and secure for patients to confirm, rebook or cancel hospital appointments online, while allowing the Trust to significantly drive down paper and postage costs.

This portal will enable patients to access their appointment details from anywhere, on any device and at any time. Mindful that patients have different needs, the browser-based portal supports patients who need reading or visual impairment tools – and allows users to customise the way they book their appointments, Those who have not logged in to read the digital version in time or opt-out of the Hub will still receive postal notifications to maximise appointment attendance and cut down costly did not attends.

Improved efficiency and reduced paper waste
As a GDE and therefore a digital role model for healthcare organisations, UHS has an important task to advance the digital experience in the NHS. Its aim is to improve patient convenience while also making internal processes run smoothly and efficiently. Digitising appointment letters through the Patient Hub is a key step for the Trust, to boost its paper-free agenda and reduce postage costs.

Luke Robinson, Digital Outpatients Programme Director at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, says, “UHS currently sends 1 million appointment letters through the post and, when Patient Hub is fully rolled out, we will be offering all patients the option to be notified by text or email instead – which is quicker and more convenient for them, and also more cost-effective for the Trust.

“The cost savings, estimated at £150-200k per year, are significant, but much more important is the powerful reporting, which shows us whether a patient has accepted their appointment or not – making it easier to identify which ones are going to attend, and which may need a further reminder. Essentially, being able to offer patients the option of quicker, more convenient digital communications and reduce our costs at the same time is great.”

Less frustration and lost time
As a result of the wide Patient Hub rollout, UHS can improve the utilisation of freed appointments and provide an overall better service to its patients, who can request a call back to discuss any rebooking needs with an advisor. The Hub’s full integration means the advisor gets a screen-pop of all the relevant patient data from the start of the call – meaning that patients don’t need to repeat information and so enjoy an improved, faster experience. The screen-pop functionality works even when the patient decides to call directly into the booking centre with a query.

Robinson adds, “Patients can cancel with a single click, and the hub is fully integrated with our switchboard so patients can request a ‘call-me-back’ at a click of a button, meaning they can reschedule without waiting on hold to our patient services centre.”

Looking ahead, UHS will aim to further integrate the Hub with its innovative clinical portal My Medical Record (MyMedRec), which is designed to help patients with chronic illnesses manage their care. Once the two portals are connected, patients will be able to review their appointments on the Hub and then seamlessly move to MyMedRec to check-in or upload clinical information ahead of time.

Ian Brewer, Head of Information Technology at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, says, “UHS has had a successful relationship with Netcall for several years, utilising its call handling solution in Switchboard, the IT Service desk, and a number of other departments, and Netcall has been sending our outpatient appointment reminders by telephone and text for a few years”.

“When we started to look for a solution to send digital letters to patients, Netcall’s Patient Hub seemed a natural fit. The additional functionality we have been able to deploy as part of the programme, including confirming or cancelling appointments, as well as additional call handling facilities in our busy Patient Services Centre, has made it a great choice.” Brewer continues, “Netcall has proven to be a great partner to work with, both from a technical and project perspective.”

Mark Holmes, Chief Sales Officer at Netcall says, “We are very pleased to continue our work supporting this innovative GDE. University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has a clear vision and strategy for a future that is centred around excellence and patient experience. The experience that both the UHS and Netcall teams bring to the Patient Hub implementation, working alongside MyMedRec, means that the future looks very exciting.”

Read more about Netcall’s Patient Hub.

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