EDATT: Taking patient access to the next level

EDATT Digital Patient Support

Following the successful pilot of EDATT with Poplar Grove Practice, Hanley Consulting partnered with Blinx Healthcare to take the platform one step further through a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) project pilot with Buckinghamshire based PCN, Aylesbury Central.

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The aim of RPA is to automate repetitive processes to boost efficiency. In this project we are using RPA to provide automated digital support to patients at the first point of contact with their GP practice, whether that is via the telephone, the practice website or in the surgery. Whilst the EDATT model enables patients to complete administrative tasks themselves, integration with Blinx PACO to create EDATT+ also offers them a direct routine appointment booking platform via a patient-facing chatbot. The chatbot automatically navigates patients to appropriate services that they can directly book into without waiting in a call queue to speak to a call handler. By offering a wider range of service options, the platform aims to reduce the booking of unnecessary GP appointments, free up clinical resource,reduce the pressure on administrative staff when demand exceeds capacity and improve the patient experience of accessing healthcare.

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Hanley Consulting and Blinx Healthcare worked with Aylesbury Central PCN (comprising Whitehill Surgery and Berrycroft Medical Centre) from the 1st April – 30th September 2023. The PCN was awarded funding by BOB ICB to implement an RPA pilot in order to embark on a transformative project to streamline the patient journey and empower them through automated technology.

The PCN faces the same challenges as many primary care organisations nationally. Staff burnout, patients voicing frustration around accessibility, the inefficient use of clinician’s time on non-clinical tasks and challenges in encouraging patient to use online health platforms are all reflective of issues identified in The Fuller Stocktake report when it comes to the pressures faced by General Practice. The aims of the RPA pilot, therefore, were to

  • Reduce the pressure on practice phone lines (particularly the 8am rush) to reduce the number of missed calls and improve call stat performance
  • Improve patient access and experience
  • Support the wellbeing of staff
  • Free up clinical resource to focus on the provision of patient care
  • Reduce administrative tasks
  • Increase NHS app uptake and usage
  • Tackle the issue of demand outweighing resource capacity by the use of the online consultation platform

After a needs analysis was conducted with the PCN, which included a consultation with their Patient Participation Group, the RPA pilot focussed on automating the following processes:

  1. Enabling patients to check test results and order repeat prescriptions digitally
  2. Clinicians sending appointment booking links or tasks to invite patients for appointments either as an outcome of triage or to easily arrange follow-up.
  3. Offering an ‘assessment of need’ at first contact
  4. Signposting patients to PCN, primary care and community services
  5. Supporting reception teams to direct patients to the automated process reducing the time spent on verbally encouraging digital access and uptake

Further details on the methodology used in the implementation of the project can be found in our full RPA pilot report.

We were delighted to receive some very positive feedback from both patients and practice team members during the course of the pilot:

“This service is a huge help to me as I really struggle to book appointments over the phone due to hearing problems.” Patient feedback

“Call queues are shorter, therefore patients are happier” Practice team member

Our analysis of data collected from direct patient engagement, and dashboards designed to measure against the project KPIs also showed significant improvement in all areas the project set out to support:

  • Demand management – missed calls were reduced by nearly 20% between May and September, mainly owing to patients opting for digital support.
  • Administrative time – by empowering patients to complete administrative tasks via the platform (for example updating personal details, submitting asthma reviews and home BP readings, a total of 6 hours and 20 minutes of admin time was saved across August and September
  • NHS app uptake has trippled during the pilot phase due to EDATT’s guided support via the automated chatbot.
  • 69% of patients asked agreed they felt more empowered when asked to complete their health need task digitally via the platform, with 61% saying this has improved their experience of accessing healthcare to meet their needs.

We will conduct a survey into staff wellbeing in early 2024, but verbatim feedback in this regard has also been very positive:

“My staff are so much happier, so much so that retention has increased” Practice manager

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