Dumfries and Galloway pioneers digital transformation for NHS Scotland

Published: 21-Jul-2022

Patient portal supports joined-up services to improve the patient experience and promote sustainability

NHS Dumfries and Galloway is pioneering digital transformation for NHS Scotland with the introduction of a new patient portal.

The health board’s Sustainability and Modernisation programme (SAM) was created to modernise health and social care at the hospital and ultimately improve operations while ensuring that services would be sustainable and financially viable in the longer term.

IT director, Graham Gault, knew the trust needed to improve its carbon footprint for the next 10-20 years and reduce how much paper was sent out to patients to virtually zero.

And part of the SAM programme was to make the best use of technology and to avoid waste of all kinds.

In a move towards sustainability and enhanced patient care, the board decided to transform the management of patient appointments and digitise communications.

If even 50% of appointments could be sent digitally, the organisation would save the print and postage costs of 75,000 letters per year and the mailroom and staff resources could be put to better use.

This would advance the SAM programme and provide a better patient experience because many people now prefer electronic interaction.

The board set the ambitious goal of moving 80% of its clinic appointment letters and reminders to a digital platform in six months.

“Given the successful implementation at NHS Dumfries & Galloway of Netcall’s Patient Hub to deliver digital COVID results, we believed this to be the best-in-class solution available to handle the digital delivery of our patient appointments,” said Gault.

Integration to PAS

The board had been using Netcall’s Patient Hub Result to process COVID tests for key workers since April 2020. When COVID struck, they worked with Netcall to automate thousands of tests and had a secure test portal up and running in five days.

And the board has integrated its patient administration system, PAS, to Netcall’s Patient Hub to build one efficient workflow.

Integrating the cloud-based Patient Hub directly to the PAS meant the board could use Patient Hub to send appointment bookings and cancellations by SMS.

Managing change

This new process has totally changed the way the PAS team manages patient appointments.

Offering advice to other trusts considering deploying similar technology, Gault said: “Check your processes carefully and take baby steps. You have to support fears of change and communicate with everyone regularly.

“At the start, there was a lot of testing to do, and regular meetings with the team.

“When the PAS team saw patients responding to digital appointment reminders, they realised they could confirm appointments much faster, or if a patient could not attend they could immediately offer the same appointment to another patient.

The system’s dashboard provides clear visibility of the patients attending each clinic and when more departments use the system, it will improve utilisation of resources right across the hospital.”

An advertising campaign in the local papers, supported by social media, kept the local community informed of the changes and asked them to look out for digital messages.

The aim now is for all centrally-managed departments to adopt the systems within six months.

Patient feedback

The response from patients to the deployment shows 67% are responding digitally to their appointment messages, which is well above the 50% hoped for.

And the board, which prints 500 letters per day, predicts that is even 50% are saved this frees staff time and eliminates the handling of over 75,000 letters annually. It also helps meet near-zero carbon goals and saves the print and postage costs.

What’s next

Gault said: “We plan to continue to promote Patient Hub to increase engagement and maximise the benefit Patient Hub offers.

“We plan to roll out the use of this system to other areas of the health board, further embedding this within out services and, finally, we will begin to explore the additional functionality offered by Netcall to assess the benefits this would offer to us in our local area.”

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