A study has suggested that more than two-thirds of patients prefer digital communications from their healthcare provider over those sent via post. 

The independent survey, commissioned by Healthcare Communications, involved  2,000 adults in Britain.

The results showed a preference for digital communications, with two thirds (68%) wanting to be able to manage their NHS appointments online or via a smartphone (i.e. confirm, cancel or reschedule their appointments).

Around 40% indicated they would like to go paperless with all their communications from the NHS, versus just under a third (31%) who didn’t. The remaining 29% either didn’t know or didn’t give a preference.

Digital communications were most popular with the younger demographics. 53% of under 35s said they would like to go fully paperless with the NHS, with 77% of under 45s wanting to be able to confirm, cancel or reschedule their NHS appointments online or via a smartphone.

Healthcare Communications, which provides patient communications technology, has worked with the NHS for the last 17 years and helped introduce SMS text reminder services.

“These results suggest patient-focused digital technology continues to play a growing role in helping to reduce the number of missed hospital appointments, with many patients showing a preference for a paperless approach,” said Mike Cunningham, managing director of Healthcare Communications.

“Failure to attend appointments places huge strain on NHS resources.

“By continuing to develop and introduce new communication tools, the patient experience is enhanced, costs are reduced and resources become easier to manage.”

The survey also revealed that nearly half of those patients questions said issues with appointment letters meant they missed their hospital appointment.

Last year, Healthcare Communications launched a patient portal that allows patients to receive and respond to appointment letters digitally, as well as giving the NHS confirmation that the digital letter has been accessed by the patient. Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was the first to introduce the digital letter technology.