Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has partnered with DrDoctor to provide an online portal for outpatients, reducing the need for paper appointment letters.

The patient engagement portal (PEP), which went live on 14 May 2024, allows outpatients at Cheltenham General Hospital, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Stroud Maternity Hospital to view digital letters about appointments online and receive text reminders.

Zoë Blackman, communications lead at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, told Digital Health News: “The main thing for the trust is empowering our patients to have more control over their care, allowing them to be better informed through improved communication.

“It also frees up our staff to focus more on care provision, rather than the administrative side of things”.

The five-year contract with DrDoctor began in 2023, with development taking place on the PEP since December 2023 and more functionality planned to be added throughout 2024 and 2025.

Tom Whicher, founder and CEO of DrDoctor, said: “The launch of digital letters and notifications is only the beginning of the transformation journey we’re on with Gloucestershire Hospitals.

“We plan to deploy more advanced solutions including two-way scheduling, direct messaging and digital assessments, plus integration with the NHS App to deliver a truly joined-up patient experience”.

In summer 2024, the trust plans to integrate the PEP with the NHS app, so that patients can opt to receive notifications instead of text messages, as well as introducing the functionality for patients to change their appointment times online.

By 2025 it plans to roll out a two-way messaging functionality to offer patients appointment times and provide relevant healthcare information via text. There are also plans to introduce digital clinical assessments in 2025.

Dr Paul Downie chief clinical information officer and clinical safety officer at Gloucestershire Hospitals, said the PEP is “a huge milestone” in the trust’s patient empowerment journey.

“The introduction of digital appointment letters means our patients will no longer need to wait for the postie to view their appointment details – they’ll be able to access the portal easily, from anywhere, at any time,” he added.

Helen Ainsbury, chief digital and information officer at Gloucestershire Hospitals, said the PEP “promises significant value to both our staff and patients, contributing to our trust goals and providing us with amazing opportunities to streamline and enhance our patient experience”.

The trust also worked with Synertec, which acts as the facilitator in printing, posting and now sending letters onto DrDoctor to display digitally.

To access the PEP, patients will be sent a secure link via text message or email, which will enable them to log-in with two-factor verification.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust went live with an electronic prescribing and medicines administration solution provided by Altera Health in June 2023, as part of its five-year digital strategy which launched in  2019.