Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust chief technology officer says that introducing a new digital booking system will save the trust the equivalent of £3.4 million a year.
The large London acute trust started playing with DrDoctor, a relatively young London-based booking and patient interaction software, in September last year in an effort to cut their poor rates of patient no-shows in their maternity service.
The trust’s chief technology officer Gary McAllister said that previously the trust had sent text alerts to patients, reminding them of their appointment, or relied on calling the patients.
“We sent them a text message saying you have an appointment in six months but there was no way for the patient to say whether they were going to turn up or not,” he said.
McAllister said within weeks of DrDoctor being rolled out in maternity service DNA rates had dropped by 40%.
In May, the trust started rolling out the software across the entire trust, with every patient expected to be on the system by September this year.
About a quarter of the trust services have already switched to DrDoctor and the trust estimates that once it is fully rolled out it will achieve £3.4 million in savings, from fuller booking schedules and fewer DNAs.
DrDoctor is one of a bundle of start-ups that are trying to grab market share in the health booking and appointment market, which in the acute sector is still mostly paper-based.
MyGP is attempting to do something similar in primary care, trying to convince GPs to adopt another system when online booking functions often exist within their existing EPR or other systems.
Both companies have argued bookings are a good away to lure patient into online services, where uptake has so far been poor in both the acute and primary sector.
Tom Whicher, one of the founders of DrDoctor, said of the patients that had been offered DrDoctor at Guy’s and St Thomas’ 70% used the service and 35% of those had used it more than once.
As well as reduction in no-shows, slot utilisation, that is the number of appointment slots left unassigned, had also improved, he said.
Initially, Dr Doctor is a text based service linked directly into a trust’s patient administration system, in the case of Guy's and St Thomas' iSoft iPM, allowing patients to confirm, cancel and change bookings via text.
However, the text service also provides links to an online account for the patient, that provides access to a calendar of their past and upcoming appointments, any pre-appointment information clinicians wish to share with patients, and surveys.
The surveys can be used to fill out basic pre-appointment information a clinician would previously do in person, freeing up more clinical time, and for follow-ups to maintain regular contact with patients and escalate support if their condition deteriorates.
It can also be used to share test results, although this function has not yet been used at Guy’s and St Thomas’.
Unlike many patient portal products, DrDoctor does not, and has no plans to, link into a patient’s health records.
As well as Guy’s and St Thomas’, DrDoctor has been deployed at Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board in Wales.