Primary care IT system supplier Newchurch Ltd  has announced a partnership with Belgium-based electronic scheduling specialists UltraGenda, to incorporate its e-scheduling system into the Newchurch Primary Care Information Solution (PCIS).

The integration of Ultragenda’s e-scheduling system into Newchurch’s PCIS will for the first time enable patients to schedule primary care appointments online, using an easy-to-use, web-based portal, available 24-hours a day.

The ability to easily offer web-based e-scheduling will provide primary care organisations (PCOs) and the patients they serve with a new way interact electronically and schedule appointments.

Electronic scheduling of appointments is a central component of modernisation plans for the NHS. The National NHS IT Programme says that by 2005 all patients must be able to electronically book an appointment at a time and place of their choice.

Ultragenda’s rules-based e-scheduling system will complement Newchurch’s PCIS by providing cost-effective and patient-focused, electronic appointment-setting processes, which can be integrated with primary care electronic patient records.

Hugo Schellens, CEO of UltraGenda, said that too often the scheduling of primary care appointments by telephone was an expensive, inefficient and, above all, frustrating task. He noted that "patients complain about waiting times, unfriendly and impersonal treatment, and irregular opening hours in which to call", which lead to poor quality appointments.

"UltraGenda’s e-scheduling system not only combines internal and outsourced scheduling, it introduces a completely new option: appointments made by the patients themselves, at their leisure, 24/7," said Mr Schellens.

The UltraGenda scheduling system will be offered via an Application Service Provider (ASP) platform, enabling PCOs a sophisticated, user-friendly scheduling system without having to worry about back-up, support and updates.

The scheduling system concept is entirely rules-based, allowing the PCO to grant users access rights to a secure portal that communicates with remotely hosted scheduling application.

Depending on the levels of authorisation set up by the PCO, users can request appointments based on a range of criteria, including: the individual GP, nurse or therapist; the type of appointment; the time of appointment; the number of appointments required; and cancellations.

Newchurch’s new PCIS has been developed to meet the growing needs of Primary Care Trusts and is based six ‘Manager’ applications, reflecting the key activities of primary care organisations. Each of the applications is accessed through a common web-based portal.

Andy Hall, Sales and Marketing Director, Newchurch, commented, "The Newchurch Primary Care Information Solution, specifically targeted at PCOs, supports both their clinical and management requirements and, whilst addressing business-critical issues, is extremely patient-focused."

He added that Newchurch’s non-exclusive partnership with UltraGenda "will enable the seamless delivery of patient care whilst meeting the guidelines set out by the Primary Care Information Modernisation Board".