Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust (NLAG) has launched new NHS App features to transform the way patients access and manage their appointments within the NHS. The programme, known as Wayfinder, is part of a national strategy led by NHS England to improve patient experience and help tackle waiting list backlogs – positioning the NHS App as the digital “front door” to NHS services.
The new features, which went live at NLAG on 14th February 2023, enable patients to see and manage their GP referrals and hospital appointments and, in time, their letters and waiting times. It is already proven that in providing patients with more control over their appointment bookings and making it easier to book, cancel or reschedule, trusts experience a reduction in missed appointments (known as “did not attend” or DNAs).
The initiative is designed to be vendor-agnostic, with patient communication suppliers from all participating trusts working together, alongside NHS England, to provide a consistent service delivered through the NHS App. Healthcare Communications, which has a longstanding relationship with NLAG, has worked closely with the national programme team to seamlessly integrate the patient portal into the NHS App for NLAG patients.
NLAG is one of 23 NHS acute trusts to launch the new NHS App features.
Shauna McMahon, Chief Information Officer, at NLAG, said: “When we learnt that NHS England was planning to integrate patient communications into the NHS App in this way, we immediately put ourselves forward. We are committed to advancing our digital technology to enhance patient care, providing improved patient experience, and reaping the rewards through better operational efficiencies. This project will help us to build on the significant gains that we have already seen following the introduction of our Healthcare Communications digital patient engagement portal.”
NLAG launched its patient portal in June 2021, which enabled the trust to send patient appointment letters digitally and provide SMS appointment reminders that enable patients to cancel or rebook their appointment. Since its launch, 66% of patients have accessed the patient portal and 77% of patients have opted in for SMS messaging services. The trust has since sent more than 500,000 appointment letters digitally which has saved £171,000 in printing and administration costs. Additionally, SMS reminders have resulted in an immediate reduction in DNAs – from 10% to 7% meaning that patient appointments can be reallocated and are not wasted.
Jackie France, Associate Director for Patient Services at NLAG, hopes that the Wayfinder programme will enable the trust to reach even more patients digitally to further expand the efficiency and cost savings and enable more patients to reap the benefits.
“The number of NHS App users spiked dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people downloaded the app to access their COVID Passport. This increase in users has made it a more viable way to communicate with patients and we hope that those patients, who may be reluctant to download our patient portal, may be more accepting of accessing appointment information via an existing app on their phone.”
Kenny Bloxham, Managing Director, Healthcare Communications, said: “We are delighted to work with NHS England, partner organisations and the team at NLAG to expand the functionality of the NHS App and help more people to access the services that they need digitally. We are committed to working alongside other vendors to make this happen and are proud of what we have collectively achieved. We are now looking to support NLAG as we expand the reach of the digital communications provided via the NHS App.”
Healthcare Communications is the leading provider of patient communication services in the UK healthcare market – working with more than 130 NHS Trusts and delivering 120 million secure patient communications a year. It supports digitally driven, patient-led NHS communications that improve engagement, boost appointment attendances, and increase patient satisfaction levels. It helps the NHS interact with all patients across multiple channels, according to their individual preferences (such as via its digital portal, SMS, IVR, telephone and post). To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0845 9000 890 for a friendly chat.