South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has saved £240,000 a year following the implementation of the Healthcare Communications Patient Portal.
The technology went live across the outpatient service in October 2019, and the trust is now looking to extend the rollout to community services, radiology, and other surgical departments.
The Patient Engagement platform delivers digital appointment letters to patients, providing immediate cost-saving benefits from paper, printing, and postage, while relieving administrative burden and reducing the likelihood of clerical error.
In addition, the technology allows patients to reschedule and cancel appointments via their mobile devices, helping the trust to reduce ‘did not attend’ appointments (DNAs) by 4%.
For the trust, a key driver for digitising outpatient letters was the lack of accountability associated with paper processes as well as issues relating to the distribution of letters for short-notice appointments.
Moving our patient appointment communications to a digital workflow means we are now able to deliver information to patients in a format that works best for them
And patients were not always able to contact the trust via phone to change their appointment, resulting in wasted slots.
Since going live with the patient portal, more than 700,000 digital letters have been delivered to patients. As a result, more than 37 hours of administrative work is being saved each month, freeing up more time for patient care and digital innovation projects.
Using the technology, STSFT has also been able to reutilise a significant number of appointments for waiting-list patients.
Laura Bond, head of outpatients and clinical administration at the trust, said: “The Patient Engagement Portal has transformed our appointment management processes. Our admin staff no longer have the burden of manually sending letters or answering unnecessary inbound calls, giving them more time to focus on caring for our patients.
“Moving our patient appointment communications to a digital workflow means we are now able to deliver information to patients in a format that works best for them.
“There are many benefits to our organisation and administrative team; it has truly helped us transform our department and the quality of service we can provide.”
The Patient Portal enables staff to easily configure patient letters, including edits to text and changes to the frequency of reminders.
In addition, the AIS-compliant platform includes an accessibility toolbar, providing patients with speech, reading, and translation options in 99 languages for digital text.
On average, more than 4,000 patients access the toolbar each month.
And, with the majority of letters now sent digitally, the trust has been able to switch off internal letter printing systems for nearly all of its outpatient appointments; and, if digital communication is not accessed within 24 hours, Healthcare Communications automatically sends a paper letter to the patient to provide a fully-inclusive service.
The platform -enerated work lists also permit agile and flexible working, and staff can easily log on to work from anywhere with no complicated set-up, which has been crucial for creating safer workspaces during the pandemic.
With the appetite for personalised patient communication growing, the switch to digital-first communication is an important step for any organisation wanting to open the digital front door and remove barriers for patients to receive their healthcare
Kenny Bloxham, managing director of Healthcare Communications, said: “We are delighted with results the trust continues to achieve following the rollout of our patient portal across its outpatient service.
“With more than 700,000 letters sent digitally, staff are spending much less time on administrative processes, freeing up more time for patient care and ensuring that appointments can be reutilised.
“The cost-saving benefits and improvements to accountability have also been significant, and we are looking forward to extending the use of the technology to community services, radiology, and other surgery departments.
“With the appetite for personalised patient communication growing, the switch to digital-first communication is an important step for any organisation wanting to open the digital front door and remove barriers for patients to receive their healthcare.”