Hospital digital appointments cuts postage cost by half

Sue Elliston, Directorate Manager of Centralised Outpatients and Administration Services (standing) with Elaine Eyre (Booking Centre Manager)
Sue Elliston, Directorate Manager of Centralised Outpatients and Administration Services (standing) with Elaine Eyre (Booking Centre Manager)
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A new patient communications project by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has cut the cost of appointment letters by 51%, as part of a trust-wide initiative to drive digital efficiency.

Hospital patients are now benefiting from the secure digital appointments which offer text-to-speech functionality and 99 language translation options.

Following the launch last month, the digital letter implementation has seen 44% of eligible patients choosing to receive their appointment letter digitally, which halves the cost the Trust traditionally spends per letter on posted correspondence.

The digital letter portal has been pioneered by Healthcare Communications and its introduction follows the success of a multi-channel appointment reminder service that has helped the Trust reduce 'do not attend' appointments from 8.9% to 7.5%, freeing up 38,000 reusable appointment slots over the past 12 months.

Sue Elliston, ELHT Directorate Manager of Centralised Outpatients and Administration Services, said: “During the last year, we have totally overhauled our appointment booking operations. The appointment reminder campaign has helped us significantly reduce the number of patients failing to attend their appointments and we have now upscaled our digital offering this summer to give patients the ability to access appointment letters and supporting information via their mobile device or computer.

“The patient portal is proving successful in a number of ways. It improves patient experience as it allows them to interact and have information about their appointment at their fingertips. It’s also allowing our communications to be responsive to the needs of our patients – for example – allowing instant translation into the patient’s preferred language, or converting the text to speech. There are benefits to the Trust as well by delivering a direct cost saving when compared to the postage charge and reducing admin time involved in traditional letters, thus making our processes much more efficient.”

Kenny Bloxham, commercial director of Healthcare Communications, which has been working with the NHS for 18 years, said: “The team at ELHT’s patient communications transformation programme is moving at pace, and we have now brought digital options to the entire patient journey – from the appointment letter and reminders, to the Friends and Family Test feedback.”

The patient portal sends a secure digital invite for the patient to view appointment letters, pre-op assessments and supporting information on their smartphone, tablet or desktop. Patients can click to immediately confirm, cancel or rebook their appointment, as well as adding the appointment in their digital calendar, and accessing real-time travel maps. They can also save the letter or print it, and access text-to-speech functionality and 99 language translation options.

In the first phase, digital letters have been introduced to ELHT’s centralised outpatient appointment bookings and will be rolled out to specialist outpatient areas, including pre-op, pathology and therapies.