Audit case study

Tudor Lodge Health Centre logo

Healthcare settings today require seamless communication interfaces between patients and providers to enhance patient care and maintain operational efficiency. At Hanley Consulting, we offer a comprehensive auditing service to critically analyse patient journeys when making contact with their healthcare provider.

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Our aim is to support General Practice by offering recommendations to address any areas of improvement noted, and encourage patients to ‘self-serve’ where they can in order to resolve their query. This service also supports primary care providers when adhering to national priorities by suggesting solutions to: • Speed up time to care by direct routing • Expand self-referral and self-booking pathways • Reduce admin burden and tackle the ‘8am rush’ of increased call volumes • Improve access and patient experience • Achieve 75% NHS app uptake amongst their patient population

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We recently worked with Tudor Lodge Health Centre on a project that aimed to map the patient experience when making contact with the practice on the phone.

In reviewing the current telephony call flow ‘journey’, we looked at the options presented to the caller, the routes they navigated to connect with the right person/department and the language used throughout the process. A survey was also sent to the practice’s patient population to gather feedback on their first-hand experiences, any challenges they faced and suggestions for improvement.

In particular, we wanted to look at how the practice could adopt and deploy strategies that either disperse the surge in call volumes seen daily between 8am and 10am, or handle it more effectively. This particular period of peak demand typically results in long call waiting times, which in turn leads to a range of pressures that impact on staff, patients and operational delivery. In thinking about how the practice could tackle this ‘8am rush’, we made a series of recommendations that largely encourage patients to ‘self-serve’ where possible, and to streamline call flows if their query does require direct engagement with practice staff. Taking into account the practice demography, varied levels of deprivation and levels of digital literacy, we also made recommendations about the amount of support required to encourage patients to self-serve digitally by giving them the support they need.

In the case of Tudor Lodge Health Centre, we felt that by making simple changes to the practice’s telephone messaging and call flow handling, and promoting the use of digital tools, they would see noticeable results when it comes to:

  • Improving patient experience
  • Streamlining operations
  • Optimising service delivery (particularly during times of peak demand)
  • Relieving pressure on staff

Telephone messaging and call flow handling

In reviewing the current telephone system at Tudor Lodge Health Centre, a few key observations were noted and recommendations made accordingly:

Create a ‘general welcome’ telephone message: The main aim of this message is to encourage patients to self-serve for non-urgent issues – particularly outside of usual practice hours- by directing them to the appropriate tools and resources to do so. We noted how the practice was seeing a large number of calls during the morning rush, potentially as a result of the current out of hours phone messaging that advises patients to call back for non-urgent enquiries during practice opening hours.

Increase the number of main telephone menu options: This will help to ensure patients can be streamed according to their enquiry more efficiently. Increased options also enable the practice to collect data on why patients are calling to determine whether a self-service provision could be devised to support their needs and reduce call volumes. Taking administrative queries as an example, patients could be encouraged to use a digital tool to complete their request, or call back at a specific time allocated for this type of enquiry (thus removing this pool of queries away from periods of peak demand).

Use telephone voice prompts: These can be used to relay information to patients as an alternative to text messaging which, while useful, can prove costly if used as a sole means of communication. Voice prompts also promote accessibility when it comes to patients who may not use a mobile phone, or who prefer audio messaging over written text.

Patients can also be asked to provide details of their call via a voice prompt, in order to prepare staff as to the purpose of the call in advance and help them deal with the enquiry effectively.

Ensuring contingencies are in place for all routes taken by patients when making contact: To minimise complaints being made when callers are ‘cut off’ by the system, they should be offered alternative options in the event of an issue occurring (for example, if they are told whilst on the line that they will receive a text with further information, but do not receive it, they should be given the option to try again or return to the call queue). A ‘closed loop call flow’ should help to ensure that a caller’s journey only ends when the caller decides it should do so.

Encouraging the use of digital solutions

One of the key findings from the patient survey used as part of the audit for Tudor Lodge Health Centre was that a significant proportion of the patient population has never used an online appointment booking system. One respondent went so far as to state “I was not aware I could book appointments online”. To increase awareness around digital tools and their the benefits, therefore, we recommended the practice:

  • Educates staff on the importance of promoting digital tools when speaking to patients
  • Ensures their website contains details around digital tools available
  • Prompts patients to self-serve digitally via posters/ in practice literature

However, when encouraging the use of digital solutions, it is important to be mindful of all digital literacy levels, with support available to those who require the most help.

The results of the survey conducted at Tudor Lodge Health Centre also highlighted the importance of educating patients in the functionality of the NHS App in order to relieve the pressure on practice staff as much as possible. The NHS App allows patients to self-serve on a number of admin related actions. From experience, we have seen significant reductions in calls for admin related tasks once the message of self-serving is spread through the patient population. A quick and effective solution to this was the introduction of Hanley Consulting’s automated patient facing chatbot – EDATT.

We were delighted to work with Tudor Lodge Health Centre in offering solutions to communicative issues that are widely seen in General Practice. Please do contact us today if your practice is interested in our auditing service, or would like to find out more about our revolutionary digital support assistant, EDATT that facilitates patient self-service in primary care in order to:

  • Further improve the efficiency of practice communications interfaces
  • Encourage digital literacy and self-service amongst patient populations
  • Support staff wellbeing by reducing call volumes via an automated demand channel shift
  • Improve patient access by reducing call queue times (by 3 minutes)

For data and statistics around the impact EDATT is having, please click here.


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