Netcall | Customer Story

Patient Portal – digital responses hit 67% within three months

Dumfries and Galloway is pioneering digital transformation for NHS Scotland with joined up services that improve both patient experience and sustainability, using their patient portal.

Project highlights

  • 67% of patients respond digitally to appointment bookings in just three months
  • Reducing costs: saving 50% on paper and postage
  • Delivering on carbon goals for next 10+ years

NHS Dumfries and Galloway (D&G) is pioneering digital transformation for NHS Scotland with joined up services that improve both patient experience and sustainability, using their patient portal. The board’s Sustainability and Modernisation programme, (SAM) was created to modernise health and social care at the hospital and ultimately improve operations whilst ensuring that services would be sustainable and financially viable in the longer term. Most NHS organisations face significant financial challenges, and D&G is no exception.

Part of the SAM programme was to make the best use of technology and to avoid waste of all kinds. So, D&G began to look at digitisation and areas where money and resources could be saved.

With COP26 right on the doorstep, IT Director Graham Gault knew D&G needed to improve their footprint for the next 10-20 years and to reduce how much paper was sent out to patients, to virtually zero.

One area that could make a big impact was patient communications.

A move toward sustainability and enhanced patient care
D&G decided to transform the management of patient appointments and digitise patient communications. If even 50% of appointments could be sent digitally, they would save the print and postage costs of 75,000 letters per year and mailroom and staff resources could be put to better use. This would advance the SAM programme and provide a better patient experience, because many people now prefer electronic interaction. D&G set the ambitious goal of moving 80% of their clinic appointment letters and reminders to a digital platform in six months.
Given the successful implementation at NHS Dumfries & Galloway of Netcall’s Patient Hub delivering digital COVID results, which was supported by tangible ROIs, we believed this to be the best-in-class solution available to handle the digital delivery of our patient appointments.
Integration to PAS
D&G had been using Netcall’s Patient Hub Result to process COVID tests for key workers since April 2020. When COVID struck, they worked with Netcall to automate thousands of tests and had a secure test portal up and running in five days. D&G has integrated their patient administration system, PAS, to Netcall’s Patient Hub to build one efficient workflow.

Integrating their cloud-based Patient Hub directly to the PAS meant they could use Patient Hub to send appointment bookings and cancellations by SMS. If there is no response from the patient within 24 hours, Patient Hub creates letters which the PAS team post out in the traditional way.
Hear Graham Gault at D&G talk about delivering COVID-19 results, or click on the video to the right
Managing change
This new process has totally changed the way the PAS team manages patients’ appointments. Managing the change sensitively helped to build the PAS team’s confidence in the digital platform. Graham Gault’s advice is “Check your processes carefully and take baby steps. You have to support fears of change and communicate with everyone regularly.”

At the start, there was a lot of testing to do, and regular meetings with the team. When the PAS team saw patients responding to digital appointment reminders, they realised that they could confirm appointments much faster, or if a patient could not attend they could immediately offer the same appointment to another patient. The system’s dashboard provides clear visibility of the patients attending each clinic. When more departments use the system it will improve utilisation of resources right across the hospital.

An advertising campaign in the local papers, supported by social media, kept the local community informed of the changes and asked them to look out for digital messages.

Aiming for all centrally managed departments to adopt within six months
The response from patients is very encouraging. The departments using Patient Hub are seeing 67% of patients responding digitally to their appointment messages, which is well above the 50% they hoped for. The Board print over 500 letters per day (130,000 p.a.), when even 50% are saved this frees staff time and eliminates the handling of over 75,000 letters annually. It also helps meet near zero carbon goals and saves the print and postage costs.

D&G’s aim is to roll out the new digital system to more departments and to deploy Patient Hub to manage all centrally managed hospital specialties appointments and reminders by the end of financial year 2021/22.

Netcall’s Patient Hub is an integral part of D&G’s move to digital communications and driving recovery in the Board.
  • 67% of patients responded digitally
  • Even with just a 50% adoption, eliminates the handling of 75,000 letters annually
  • Meets near zero carbon goals
  • Saves print and postage costs

What’s next for Dumfries & Galloway?

We plan to continue to promote Patient Hub to increase engagement and maximise the benefits Patient Hub offers. We plan to rollout the use of this system to other areas of the health board, further embedding this within our services. Finally, we will begin to explore the additional functionality offered by Netcall to assess the benefits this would offer to us in our local area.
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