Healthcare communication platform Accurx has launched a new targeted appointment booking feature that its CEO says is proving popular with GPs, practices and patients across the NHS during its first few months of use.

The feature enables all GP practices in England to invite large cohorts of patients to book appointments, including vaccinations like flu, and has already been used by over one million patients to book appointments for Covid or flu jabs.

It works by a GP practice sending an SMS with a booking link for an appointment to a large cohort of patients in one go which may say, for example: “You are due for an annual flu vaccination. To book, please follow this link within 48 hours.”

Invited patients receive a text message with a unique booking link, and once they click on their link and verify themselves using their date of birth, they can choose a time slot up to six weeks in advance that works for them.

Once the patient confirms their appointment, they are automatically booked into their GP practice’s clinical appointment book in EMIS or SystmOne.

Jacob Haddad, CEO and co-founder of Accurx, spoke exclusively to Digital Health News about the new booking feature on the platform and how the approach to the online booking model has changed.

He said: “Online booking isn’t a new thing, it has been around for as long as Accurx has existed. But the problem with existing solutions has been if a practice makes an appointment available online, anyone can book it for any reason.

“We’ve completely flipped the online booking model to one where a patient is invited to book a certain type of appointment. So we’re trying to approach appoint booking very differently to what’s been done before but still in a very integrated way with their existing systems.”

The feature aims to help GP practices more easily manage appointment booking by:

  • Saving vital time by streamlining workflows and reducing the manual processes involved in scheduling appointments.
  • Freeing up phone lines, as patients will book their appointments online instead of calling the GP practice to arrange them.
  • Providing easier access to care for millions of patients and improving their experience, resulting in fewer ‘Did Not Attends’ for GP practices.

Feedback on the feature from GPs and practices has been “glowing” according to Haddad, who said that “patients love it too”.

One GP who has been using the new feature during flu season is Dr Amar Ahmed MBBS (Lond) DCH DRCOG MRCGP, partner and GP trainer at Wilmslow Health Centre.

He said: “Flu season is always incredibly busy in primary care, even at the best of times. With such a huge volume of patients to book in, our teams are placed under immense pressure.

“This new booking feature from Accurx is going to revolutionise the way we organise our vaccination programme. Through one simple text message, the time our GP staff spend scheduling vaccination appointments will be dramatically reduced, giving them more capacity to deliver vital patient care.”

There have been positive reactions to the feature across the country, with plans to extend the use of it to even more GP practices in England and eventually outside of England too.

Nikki, a practice manager in Somerset, was also very enthusiastic about the impact of the new vaccination booking feature.

She said: “Accurx has been a total game-changer this flu season. Our uptake has been greater, in part because patients have been able to self-book I believe.

“We have literally saved hours of time contacting and booking patients and now look forward to seeing how we can use this for other appointment types.”

Accurx continues to make waves in the NHS, evident towards the end of 2022 when the platform announced it had successfully integrated its online consultation tool, Patient Triage, with the NHS App