Hanley Consulting conducted a pilot with Poplar Grove Practice (Maple PCN) from October 2022-May 2023 to address the barriers patients faced in accessing healthcare services and also to alleviate pressures caused by high demand outstripping practice capacity.
Data shows that 86% of patients identified phone accessibility as the biggest obstacle to accessing their practice, leading to dissatisfaction and delayed care with up to 80% of phone calls going unanswered per day (January: Figure 1). Additionally, a lack of awareness and knowledge about digital tools and services hindered patients from utilising online resources effectively.
The practice also faced challenges with increased workload and staffing issues where recruitment, training and retention were concerned.
Poplar Grove Practice struggled with low patient satisfaction scores, as reflected in the GPPS 2022 (below). The practice received numerous complaints about limited access and long phone wait times, leading to delays in care and frustrated patients. These challenges were further exacerbated by difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, impacting the practice’s ability to deliver timely and efficient services. It became evident that a transformative solution was needed to address these issues and enhance patient experience.
EDATT, an automated digital support assistant, was implemented to revolutionise patient access and experience at Poplar Grove Practice. By leveraging technology to better utilise existing digital technologies (NHS App or OC tool), EDATT aimed to overcome barriers to access and enhance patient engagement by promoting self-service where appropriate. Taking provisions for varied levels of digital literacy, EDATT offers patients automated digital support at the point of need, assisting them to navigate healthcare services effectively, and in some cases navigating them away from General Practice services completely.
Figure 2. Graph to show the change in call queue duration (wait times) from Sept 2022 to May 2023 – Click image to enlarge
EDATT shifted demand from telephones to digital channels such as mobile and websites reducing wait times and enabling patients to secure timely consultations both digitally and over the phone. This resulted in enhanced patient satisfaction, more timely care due to digital triage and automated signposting to appropriate services.
The solution empowered patients to independently complete healthcare transactions such as retrieve test results, order repeat prescriptions, and book/cancel appointments through the NHS App and existing OC tool. This convenience saved time for patients and reduced their reliance on phone calls and in-person visits. Out-of-hours OC tool usage went from 76 users (September 22) to 2,818 users (May 2023).
EDATT provided tailored guidance and support to patients based on their specific needs. By asking the patient what they would like to do, the patient can then be guided to the right digital tool/app/article or forms.
EDATT automated various administrative tasks, freeing up approximately 50 hours of receptionist time per month. This allowed reception staff to focus on more complex patient inquiries and provide personalised support, leading to improved staff morale and reduced workload.
By optimising digital tools and reducing reliance on phone calls, the practice experienced financial benefits. Hiring and training reception staff is costly, and the utilisation of locum GPs and underutilisation of Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) positions can be expensive. EDATT addressed these challenges by diverting appropriate patients to existing services outside of General Practice and utilising the PCN hub model and community services to their full potential (including Pharmacy) resulting in cost savings for the practice.
Through enhanced patient access and engagement, Poplar Grove Practice saw improvements in QOF and IIF metrics. The implementation of EDATT led to increased patient satisfaction scores, reduced patient complaints, and enhanced outcomes related to timely access and patient experience. The action of embarking on quality improvement projects and the ability to demonstrate outcomes also satisfies QI modules of QOF.
The implementation of EDATT follows four stages, ensuring a systematic and effective deployment and continuous improvement.
The current digital usage and access data of the practice were assessed. This included analysing telephony data, online consultation tool usage, NHS App utilisation, and website usage data. The goal was to evaluate existing channels and technologies and areas for improvement in access and utilisation.
Based on the collected data, customised pathways were developed to optimise patient access and digital utilisation. Existing forms were digitised to facilitate seamless digital interactions.
Telephony voice messaging and website changes are mapped and printed banners with QR codes are designed.
EDATT was launched across multiple platforms, including telephone, the chatbot, and the practice website. Standardised access ensured a consistent and credible user-friendly experience for patients.
Data-driven changes are made to telephony voice messaging and integrations with local services are developed.
The impact of EDATT on access, patient experience, and efficiency was measured and quantified. Key performance indicators (KPIs) were tracked to demonstrate the improvements achieved through the implementation of the solution.
The implementation of EDATT revealed valuable insights and opportunities for future improvements. Unexpected findings highlighted patients’ demand for digital booking of various appointment types, leading to further reductions in phone demand. Future opportunities include exploring multi-language support to cater to diverse local needs and demographics, ensuring equitable access to digital healthcare services.
The case study highlights the transformative impact of EDATT on patient access and experience in NHS Primary Care. The solution successfully addressed barriers to access, improved efficiency, and enhanced patient engagement. Poplar Grove Practice experienced tangible benefits, including increased staff morale, cost savings, and improved QOF and IIF performance and most significantly improved health outcomes for patients. The results demonstrate the potential for broader adoption of digital enablement tools in healthcare settings, leading to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction.
To learn more about EDATT or replicate the success in your own NHS Primary Care setting, please contact us at [email protected]. By embracing digital transformation and leveraging innovative solutions like EDATT, we believe General Practice can revolutionise patient access and experience while achieving operational efficiency, cost savings and confidently match capacity with demand.
source: AskFirst Grafana Dashboard (May 2023) – Click image to enlarge