The figures make uncomfortable reading: every day 20,000 people across the UK miss their GP appointments. Failure to attend appointments significantly affects waiting times, and the annual cost to the NHS is said to be £200m.
Within a sector that is under huge amounts of pressure on both its resources and its finances, the situation is reaching crisis point. In the face of GP shortages where the number of GPs in the UK has fallen by nearly 4% since 2015 and people increasingly struggle to be able to get an appointment in what they perceive to be a timely manner, it’s particularly frustrating.
How can GP surgeries resolve this?
Using technology more, and being more effective in its use, is key. By digitally enabling care the NHS will result in a positive impact on missed GP appointments.
Improving communication and mobility through contact centres and the use of multiple communication channels including social media is part of the solution. With 90% of households now having internet access and 78% of adults using mobile phones or smartphones to access the internet, communicating with the public via their devices - and enabling them to be able to communicate with their GP in the same way -makes perfect sense. Using a digital service for GP/patient interactions enables those patients who can be diagnosed/treated from home to stay at home. Only those who really need a face to face appointment then physically visit the surgery.
Many GPs are already tapping into the value of this by sending reminders about appointments to patients via SMS. This not only encourages patients to stick to their appointment time, it also means that if they’re unable to attend they can cancel in a timely manner that enables another patient to take advantage of the appointment.
Not only that, the national roll-out of the NHS app is well underway, which enables patients to book and manage appointments at their GP surgery directly, at a time that’s suitable for them and even when they’re on the go.
Imagine being able to effectively troubleshoot less complex issues - either through contact centres or video conferencing appointments?
Part of the NHS Long Term Plan is to vastly improve the contact centre experience for patients, the results of which should have a direct impact on GP appointments as well as A&E admissions. Plans to integrate NHS 111, ambulance dispatch and GP out of hours services will mean that patients can receive specialist advice, treatment and referral from a wide range of healthcare professionals, in many cases before they even leave their own home.
When it comes to patient appointments, being able to conduct them over video conferencing facilities means GPs benefit from much greater efficiency. Surgeries experience less wasted appointments because patients can simply attend via a video call - and they’re much less likely to miss the appointment altogether.
Tech for the future
Embracing digital transformation will see GPs being able to engage and respond to their patients more effectively, as well as enjoy more efficient processes, the ability to measure value and the flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of their patients in the future.
Technology isn’t a silver bullet or a miracle cure, but it can play an important role in addressing some of the major issues affecting the NHS.
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