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United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust dramatically reduces ‘did not attend’ rate

A new patient communications project has cut the number of patients who did not attend (DNA) their appointments to just 4.1 per cent – one of the lowest in the country – potentially saving the Trust hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust introduced a new digital communication portal which enabled patients to manage their appointments with one click from their smartphone.

Pioneered by Healthcare Communications, the digital portal is replacing a resource-heavy system that relied on traditional letters to communicate with patients and incurred high costs. Since the portal’s launch in outpatients, the DNA rate has dropped from 5.8 per cent in September 2018 to 4.1 per cent in January 2019, compared to the national rate of 8.9%

Through the portal, patients receive appointment letters straight to their smartphone and can accept, cancel or rebook their appointment in real time, freeing up cancelled slots for other patients. The digital content converts to 99 languages in just two clicks, and the font can be increased and highlighted to improve patient accessibility to hospital communications.

Rural patients benefit from the instant delivery of their appointment, instead of waiting for it to arrive in the post. They can respond at their own convenience and not spend time and effort rescheduling via the telephone.

Patient feedback has included comments such as:

  • ‘I [previously] lost an appointment because the letter didn’t arrive until 3 weeks after the date of the appointment. I like the fact that I can have all the information I need digitally and with sufficient notice of future appointments”
  • “It meant that I had all the information to hand when I went to the hospital, and it was also quicker than waiting for the mail to arrive”
  • Time saving, cost saving and less harm to the environment”.

The portal has also led to cost savings. The NHS currently spends £100 million a year sending outpatient appointment letters, but the portal has already seen postal letters reduced by 23,000 year-on-year while the ROI from September to December 2018 was 57 per cent. There will also be a reduction in future capital costs as folding machines will no longer need to be replaced. The potential income gain is more than £2 million per year.

Kelly Wymer, ICT Project Manager from United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “In the space of only a few months, we have seen incredible results from the portal. Patient feedback has been excellent with many keen to use it and support a more digital NHS.

“By relying on traditional letters alone to communicate with patients, we were using a lot of resource and incurring high costs. The portal has resulted in better performance across the entire patient pathway, so we can focus on patient care.”

Kenny Bloxham, director of Healthcare Communications, which has been working with the NHS for 18 years said: “Switching to a multi-channel, digital-first contact approach means patients can be reached in a way that best suits them. It’s great to see the way both patients and staff have embraced the secure digital portal – with patients able to cancel appointments in real time, so appointments can be used by other patients.”

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