NHS tech to give pa­tients on­line diary to man­age treat­ment

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Laura Don­nelly HEALTH ED­I­TOR

PA­TIENTS will be able to book – and change – med­i­cal ap­point­ments on­line, un­der NHS plans to cut the £1bil­lion a year wasted be­cause peo­ple fail to turn up.

Min­is­ters said the scheme is part of a “HealthTech rev­o­lu­tion” to make life eas­ier for pa­tients and staff, and make sure ev­ery pound in­vested in the NHS goes fur­ther.

Ev­ery year around eight mil­lion hospi­tal ap­point­ments are wasted be­cause pa­tients fail to at­tend, without let­ting the hospi­tal know in ad­vance.

In many cases, those wish­ing to can­cel ap­point­ments say they at­tempted to con­tact hospi­tal de­part­ments, but gave up af­ter find­ing it too dif­fi­cult to get through to the right per­son, with no op­tion to can­cel on­line.

The new sys­tem, which will be used by more than 20 NHS trusts, means pa­tients will be able to ac­cess a por­tal, al­low­ing them to book their ap­point­ment, change the time slot – and even ac­cess maps show­ing them ex­actly where in the hospi­tal they need to go. Pa­tients will also be able to re­ceive ap­point­ment let­ters by email and text reminders as the slot ap­proaches.

Trusts test­ing the sys­tem say it has saved them up to £2mil­lion a year, with missed ap­point­ments fall­ing by al­most a third, and postage costs fall­ing by more than a quar­ter.

Health of­fi­cials said the on­line por­tal, Dr Doc­tor, will be tri­alled in 11 more hos­pi­tals on top of 10 that have re­cently in­tro­duced it with wider roll-out of such sys­tems across the coun­try if they prove a suc­cess. Matt Han­cock, the Health Sec­re­tary, said: “A HealthTech rev­o­lu­tion is com­ing to the NHS. This is a great ex­am­ple of how tech­nol­ogy can make life eas­ier for pa­tients and NHS staff, help­ing more peo­ple to ac­cess health ser­vices from home and en­sur­ing ev­ery pound goes fur­ther.”

Al­most eight mil­lion hospi­tal ap­point­ments were missed, or “did not at­tend”, in 2017-18, of­fi­cial fig­ures show – 6.7 per cent of all slots. That does not in­clude ap­point­ments can­celled in ad­vance by ei­ther hospi­tal or the pa­tient.

With each hospi­tal out­pa­tient ap­point­ment cost­ing the NHS ap­prox­i­mately £120, it sug­gests al­most £1bil­lion worth of ap­point­ments were missed – equiv­a­lent to the cost of 257,000 hip re­place­ments.

Dr Si­mon Ec­cles, chief clin­i­cal in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for health and care, said: “This tech­nol­ogy has the po­ten­tial to be a triple win for the NHS by mak­ing life eas­ier for pa­tients, sav­ing money and im­prov­ing ap­point­ment ef­fi­ciency.”

Dr Doc­tor is al­ready used in a num­ber of hos­pi­tals in­clud­ing Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foun­da­tion Trust. The tool will now be tested at a va­ri­ety of hos­pi­tals – from small spe­cial­ist sites to large in­ner city hos­pi­tals, in pi­lot schemes due to launch next year.

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