The trust has launched a new digital portal that could save hundreds of thousands of pounds by allowing patients to receive and respond to appointment letters digitally.

Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has reduced by 40% the number of outpatient letters it sends, from 200,000 to 120,000 – using a new Patient Portal from pioneering firm Healthcare Communications. Barnsley was the first to introduce the technology, and following a six-month pilot it has signed a contract to roll it out across the trust – including a new initiative to get patients into hospital more quickly for vital cancer checks.

Trust Benefits

Simon Ainsworth, Barnsley’s Associate Director of Operations for Women’s, Children’s, Outpatients & Support Services said:

“One of the huge benefits of the portal is having the confidence and assurance that patients have received the invitation, as we get a digital receipt when it is opened. More than 90% of patients who accept the invitation access it within 24 hours. Like the rest of the NHS, we are working towards a challenging 28-day cancer appointment diagnosis target, and we see this is part of the solution to that.

“The potential for the portal is huge. We have already recommended it to several other trusts, and we are going to roll it out everywhere that we can, including pre-assessment and surgery appointments. As patient uptake continues to grow, so too will cost savings. It is also freeing up staff for more real-time contact with patients. They are more available to deal with phone queries, for example.”

Patient Benefits

Barnsley began piloting the new technology in June 2017. Within three days of its launch, 46% of patients who were offered it had chosen digital letters over traditional post.

Among the 30-69 age group, ‘open’ rates are high, at around 60%. If the digital letter is not accessed within 48 hours a postal letter is automatically sent to patients.

Patient Martin Ball, who also works at the trust said: “The application is really simple and intuitive. All the information that I need is on my phone – I don’t have to remember to carry a letter with me to the appointment and it even puts the date straight into my calendar. It’s great.”

DNA reduction

The portal along with new multi-channel appointment reminders has also reduced DNAs (‘did not attend’) for appointments by around five per cent. “There was an instant reduction in DNAs in week one,” said Ainsworth. “Before, it was running at between 12-14% a week. Now it’s between eight and nine per cent. It means we are minimising the waste of valuable appointments, and patients are being seen more quickly.”

Trust of the year finalists

Barnsley has been shortlisted in the ‘Trust of the year’ category in the EHI Awards 2017, which recognise digital innovation.

Patient Portal Features

  • Provides all hospital appointment details including date, time and location
  • Accessible from multiple devices including smartphone, tablet and desktop
  • Get an instant confirm, rebook or cancel via a single click from the patient
  • Put the appointment directly into patient’s digital calendar as a further reminder prompt
  • Interactive home to hospital Google map with live travel info to reduce on the day delays
  • Attach clinic specific instructions, essential reading and hospital information
  • Translation functionality in 99 languages or read out aloud in a choice of 40 languages

Benefits to the Trust and patients

  • Trackable communications: the Trust obtain a digital receipt that the patient has opened the letter
  • Fully automated: the intelligence recognises who to send a digital letter to and automatically follows up with a postal letter if it is not accessed within 48 hours
  • Staff love it: their time is no longer wasted on postage admin. Processes are much more streamlined with the ability to standardise and decrease letter templates
  • Improved patient experience: patients receive hospital communications by their preferred channel. Multi language audio and text options also reduces accessibility barriers and Trust translation costs
  • Digital letter delivery is instant: in some instances patients receive postal letters with little notice until the scheduled appointment and are unable to arrange time off without significant disruption e.g. work, child minding

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