Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is implementing an online booking system to reduce no show appointments and improve patient communication.

The system is being created by DrDoctor amd will let patients book, cancel and view outpatient appointments online or on a smartphone app.

The trust is using its £49,000 ITK funding to develop an interoperability toolkit compliant interface to the DrDoctor platform.

The funding is part of the Department of Health’s £2.2m Information Sharing Challenge Fund awarded to 43 different projects across the NHS.

Tom Whicher, one of the founders of DrDoctor, told eHealth Insider the aim was to integrate with the trust’s own system.

“The ITK money will be used to make sure the booking system will talk to their patient administration system, so if you book an appointment online or via the app, it will appear in the patient administration system right away to avoid duplication and extra work.”

He added that the communication platform, which will have a clinic-by-clinic go-live at Heatherwood and Wexham Park this Spring, would also help the trust reach the friends and family test targets required by all NHS trusts from April.

“Triggered by discharge messages from the PAS, the system also allows patients to give feedback via email or text, which will automatically feed into the friends and family test, instead of having an extra admin layer to it,” he said.

Figures from the Department of Health reveal the two main reasons why patients do not attend appointments are when patients are not aware of the appointment or they simply forget.

Whicher said he hoped the system would reduce the ‘did not attend’ rates, as patients coulc book their own appointments, view them and receive text reminders.

“Referral letters can be forgotten, lost or confusing if you get too many of them. The patient will automatically get a text from the system saying they have got an appointment and telling them to log on. It also lets them know if there have been any changes to their appointment,” he said.

He added: “Last minute cancellations are a large part of the ‘did not attend’ rates. The system links up with the waiting lists and if someone cancels, it will free up an appointment which will then be automatically offered to the next person on the list.”

The DH launched the ITK fund in August last year to support information sharing projects that can be replicated across the NHS through the interoperability toolkit. The projects must be completed by the end of March this year.

Whicher said he hoped to go-live at the trust in April and was currently on track to finish the project by the completion date set by the DH.

“We’ve passed the accreditation milestone in three weeks start to finish,” Whicher said.

“We’re now receiving discharge messages from the trust. Those will let us get the booking and automatic feedback up and running.”