NHS Dumfries & Galloway eases COVID-19 test results anxiety

Scottish NHS Board launches proactive messaging solution to update staff and patients quickly on test outcomes.

When COVID-19 hit the UK, NHS Dumfries and Galloway knew it would need a system in place to deliver test results quickly and securely, whilst easing the additional administrative burden on its staff. The anticipation was that, as testing increases, staff and patients would be anxious to receive their COVID-19 results – and that this would lead to an increased number of calls to frontline staff for answers.

With the virus spreading, action needed to be taken – , and the Board approached long-term partner Netcall to provide an extension to the existing digital technology solution to address this issue. The product is already part of the Board’s long-term strategy to transform their paper-based patient communication systems, replacing it with a modern digital one, and this seemed a perfect fit. Within just two weeks, the Board has put in place a brand-new solution that automates the delivery of results to patients.

Rapid and remote development

Due to the health and safety measures that were put in place, visiting the site to implement the software was not an option. Everything had to happen remotely – from design and testing, right through to deployment via cloud architecture. Netcall was able to deliver the entire solution, despite current social distancing restrictions. Due to the intuitive and automated nature of the software, minimal training of staff has been required to use the platform, enabling it to be put into action straight away.

A seamless process for patients and staff

When a patient’s results are uploaded to Netcall’s Patient Hub Result module, an SMS is sent, prompting the patient to visit an NHS log-in page. The patient logs in and is then sent a one-time code as two-factor authentication, ensuring security and complying with data governance practices. Upon entering this code, the patient can view the status of their results – pending, positive or negative. This removes the need for patients to contact the NHS Board directly to follow up on test results, as they can check the status any time from their mobile phone. This is accompanied by the provision of documents for follow-up guidance. Additionally, the system also knows that the patient has read the message – avoiding the need for further follow-up actions.

For positive results, a ‘request a call back’ feature has been added along with relevant NHS advice for managing COVID-19 symptoms. As soon as an advisor is available, Netcall’s Liberty Converse contact centre system, which has been integrated with a new Result module, automatically places a call between the advisor and patient. The platform then gives the advisor a screenshot of all the patient’s information, saving an average of 30 seconds per call.

The results

Since the implementation of the messaging solution in early April, NHS Dumfries and Galloway has seen a large uptake among patients – with around 60% now using the platform to access their results.

Building on the initial implementation, the NHS Board and Netcall are now working on improving the accessibility features of the platform to make it available to a wider range of users, such as vision-impaired patients, to ensure everyone can be supported by it. The Board is also looking to move to the full deployment of Patient Hub integrated with their contact centre, to cater for patients across all departments and with any condition. Doing so will also help to address the large paper and postage costs associated with arranging appointments with patients beyond COVID-19 alerting.

Graham Gault, General Manager ICT, NHS Dumfries and Galloway, commented: “It has been amazing to see how quickly the Result solution has been put in place, despite the challenges of remote working. Netcall has worked with our developers to develop a system that is already delivering impressive results, and helping reduce the burden on our frontline workers, whilst providing an exceptional and streamlined user experience for our patients. We are already seeing the benefits and look forward to the implementation of the next phase in the coming weeks.”

Tony Britton, NHS Dumfries and Galloway Account Manager, Netcall, added: “Whilst phase one of the Patient Hub focused on responding proactively to the current Coronavirus crisis, the full system can be used for a variety of scenarios, such as appointment management and secure messaging. The Result module is an extremely positive prospect – which has already yielded huge benefits in this pandemic setting – and we are looking forward to build on this success and make this solution available to other healthcare customers.”


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