Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust is moving to digital letters which will ensure patients receive timely notification of their admission as an inpatient or for day cases.
In place of a paper letter, patients in Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole will receive a text message containing a link to a digital letter which can be accessed through an online portal where they’ll be able to confirm, rebook or cancel admission.
It means patients won’t have to wait to receive notification of their hospital admission, and if it’s not suitable they won’t need to call to rearrange. In addition, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole is saving money on the postage costs and seeing a reduction in the number of people failing to attend.
The system is already live for outpatient appointments within Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust. From mid-August there will be a phased rollout for patients under trauma and orthopaedics; ear, nose and throat (ENT); breast surgery; oral surgery and ophthalmology. Other specialties will follow in September.
Jackie France, associate director for patient services at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole, said: “We already send the majority of outpatient letters digitally, and since we introduced them we’ve saved more than £100,000 in printing and postage costs and we’ve seen a reduction in the number of patients failing to turn up to their appointments.
“We’ve listened to patient feedback and have extended the amount of time people have to open their letter – we’ve increased it from 24 to 48 hours.”
The digital solution offers advantages over paper letters for patients with language barriers or visual impairments too as the text can be displayed in different languages or in different sizes and it can be read out loud.
As well as informing patients of their admission date, the electronic letter will give them details of what they need to do to prepare. All of the letters will be available in one place, a copy can be downloaded to a patient’s mobile device, and they’ll have the option to add the date to their calendar.
After clicking the link patients will be prompted to enter their date of birth and a pin number from the text message to ensure the security of the system.
To ensure smooth communication the new system will recognise if a digital letter hasn’t been opened within 48 hours and in this case it will trigger a printed letter to be sent out to ensure patients don’t miss any important correspondence. Patients will be reminded by text message of their admission seven days before the date, and again 48 hours in advance.
Earlier this year Northern Lincolnshire and Goole announced it was resuming it text message reminder service after they were paused during Covid-19.