Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust has implemented a new portal that allows patients to receive and respond to appointment letters digitally.

The portal was rolled out last week for people who are booked through the trust’s outpatients booking centre. The system has been used by over a quarter of 1,048 patients in the first few days since its launch.

The full implementation comes after a successful three-month pilot with gastroenterology patients.

Gillian Ryan, Portsmouth Hospitals’ scheduled care improvement project manager, said the portal had been well-received by patients. “A gentleman in shared accommodation had missed an appointment because his letter went astray. This letter went straight to his phone. They find it easy to use”, Ryan said.

She added: “It makes hospital communications more efficient. Patients get their letters quickly rather than having to wait for the post.”

The portal has been developed by Healthcare Communications. Ryan said the trust had already been using the company’s text reminder service for a few years when it decided to trial the digital communication portal.

The switch to the new system involved lots of information governance checks to ensure the trust was giving patients a good service without compromising data privacy, she said.

“It threw up some issues we had not thought about. My advice would be, if you want to use the technology, go and see another trust that has done it, and learn from them”, Ryan said.

Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was the first to introduce the technology,  and, as Digital Health News reported earlier in the year, has seen a 40% uptake of the system.

The new digital portal allows patients to receive and respond to appointment letters digitally.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and King’s College NHS Foundation Trust are also rolling out the portal.

With the system, patients are sent a digital invite to view appointment letters, pre-assessments and supporting information on their smartphone, tablet or desktop.

Patients can click to immediately confirm, cancel or rebook their appointment, as well as add the appointment to their digital calendar, and access real-time travel maps.

Barnsley’s associate director of operations for women’s, children’s, outpatients and support services Simon Ainsworth said: “One of the huge benefits of the portal is having the confidence and assurance that patients have received the invitation, as we get a digital receipt when it is opened.”

He said more than 90% of patients who accept the invitation access it within 24 hours.

“Like the rest of the NHS, we are working towards a challenging 28-day cancer diagnosis target, and we see this is part of the solution to that”, Ainsworth added.

Barnsley has been shortlisted in the Trust of the Year category in the 2017 EHI Awards, which recognise digital innovation.