Obviously, there’s been a massive push to move bookings online – which is great! – but many still rely on speaking to an operator for a wealth of reasons, such as lack of confidence, complex requests, a faster resolution, and many more…
Now, we’re not trying to criticise anyone here – we know more than most how hard it is for GPs to handle increased demand, especially over the last couple of years – but this issue has been acknowledged by the NHS.
Improving Patient Access to GPs
In fact, in October ’21 the NHS released a new document entitled ‘Our plan for improving access and supporting general practices’. In it, they describe how ineffective communications – from reception to video consultations – lead to a poor patient experience, damaging the credibility of the entire National Health Service.
They also announced a £250m fund for practices looking to upgrade their communications services!
Get in touch to discover what that funding could mean for your practice!
Especially while social distancing has been in place, adapting appointments to meet these rules has been challenging, with some opting to replace face-to-face with phone calls. However…
“In August 2021 over 15% of practices recorded less than 20% of their GP appointments being held face to face. That is likely to be contrary to good clinical practice, even if it were to reflect the preferences of their patients.”
Now, there is a happy medium; any cloud-based communications system that’s worth its salt will include the ability to run video calls, which is the best equivalent for face-to-face appointments, for those that still do not want to visit their GPs in person.
And that’s not even the biggest benefit! A new cloud-based system can optimise a practice in many ways…
Staff can work from home (both admin and clinicians) and take video calls if required with patients. This means that those self-isolating or unable to travel (yet still healthy enough to work) don’t affect patient access to phone lines and operators.
Cloud-based services are inherently more secure, as the providers of these cloud services – such as Google and Amazon Web Services – invest billions in keeping data secure, even when accessed from home.
Not only is patient data safer, but clinicians can also protect themselves better with call recording which safeguards GPs and nurses; protecting staff and patients alike with complete transparency, in case of a complaint.
Hosted services are traditionally cheaper than the legacy PBX systems that most practices still use, meaning taxpayers’ money is being better spent. And with fewer overheads, practices can then invest more in patient services that benefit the entire community and improve quality of life!
Optimising Efficiency in General Practices
One of the main take-aways from the NHS’s report is that:
“real-time measure of patient reported satisfaction with general practice access is to be rolled out nationally and incentivised as early as April 2022.”
In other words, just like A+E’s patient/wait-time stats that are available for staff to see, GP practices will need a system that shows them wait times, call lengths, and several other metrics used to assess patient access and satisfaction, as they happen.
This means that common aspects of contact centre deployments for businesses, such as wallboards and call reporting, will need to be embraced by GP practices large and small.
While this may seem daunting and overbearing, in the long run, it will help stakeholders tweak staffing levels for peak times and ultimately, improve patient access, reducing call wait times and produce happier callers.
It also means that Primary Care Trusts will be able to assess the performance of all GPs in their Trusts, and hopefully, partner under-performers with over-achievers to help build a better service across the community!
What are the Ramifications if Practices Don’t Upgrade?
Granted this would be a worst-case-scenario, but if found to be in breach of these new guidelines, a practice could be shut down by the CQC or at the very least receive a poor audit score, which would affect their bottom line with the practice being tracked more stringently – and no one wants someone looking over their shoulder, second guessing every action!
While it isn’t exactly recent, this article highlights the importance of technology and communications efficiency in a practice. To summarise, a patient sadly died due to being given medication that he was allergic to.
If that practice had one of Future Voice’s clinical integration products – which produces a patient’s record live on the receptionist’s PC – the original mix-up may never have happened in the first place. And that’s exactly the sort of technology that the NHS is making available through this new fund.
However, resource is only available until March, so practices need to start sourcing solutions and vendors or risk losing the opportunity, and to quote the report directly once more:
“Alongside more GPs, what we need are solutions which will allow receptionists and call handlers to signpost patients to additional forms of care and the right medical support in the first instance to help them recover. Digital plays a vital role in this mix, adding additional capacity through video consultations with GPs, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and other clinicians.”
So, if you want to support your patients, and provide them with a more relaxing and positive experience – whether it’s simply booking an appointment or getting the medical advice they need – the best thing you can do today is call 0800 276 1 276 or get in touch!