How Technology Transforms the UK Patient Experience

Poor patient-to-provider communications is an issue frequently cited by both patients and healthcare providers in the UK, leading to wasted time and resources and worse patient outcomes.

For example, the NHS relies heavily on postal letters to provide appointment details. Yet, a significant number of patients said they’ve missed an appointment due to postal letter issues. And last year, The Times newspaper reported that around £100m a year is wasted due to this inefficient communication.

And, when patients try to call their GP, hospital or healthcare provider directly, they’re often left on hold for ages and eventually give up. Even when their call does go through, they struggle to connect with the right person and get their question or issue attended to.

Fortunately, modern technology can streamline communication to reduce staff workload, improve patient engagement and even lower costs.

Where’s The Pain?

When people are sick, they don’t want to wait on the phone or at their doctor’s office; they want to communicate with their healthcare professional as quickly as possible. Being left on hold for twenty minutes or rushing to be on time for an appointment – only to discover the clinic is running way behind – is incredibly frustrating and increases patient anxiety.

And, in a world where there seems to be an app for everything, patients expect technology to handle almost any issue in their everyday lives. They want reliable electronic access to records and information, self-service in scheduling appointments and the ability to communicate via multiple channels—email, phone, SMS and web chat.

At the same time, both the NHS and private healthcare providers struggle with communications technology, limited budget, shortage of qualified professionals and more, all of which make meeting and exceeding these patient expectations difficult.

How Can Technology Help?

BMI Healthcare, the United Kingdom’s largest private hospital group, discovered that many patients had difficulty getting through to its hospitals because staffers were often busy attending to patients. Its solution was to route calls to a dedicated contact centre where trained agents could serve the callers’ needs.

As a result, abandoned calls fell from over 40 percent to under 1 percent. The average time to answer is now 20 seconds for more than 80 percent of calls. And, reported BMI IT Director Dan Morgan, their conversion rate has gone from sub 30 percent to 75 percent plus.

“That’s translated directly into an improved bottom line response for our business, with the hospitals that are participating in the project seeing growth in excess of the rest of the group,” Dan says. “That’s equally benefited patients by giving them much better service and them getting through to the information they need when they need it.”

Some UK private healthcare providers are also using contact centres to continue care to discharged patients by coordinating follow up appointments, providing prescription refill reminders and other post-discharge support. Ideally, the NHS and more private providers will learn from this success and do the same.

At one time, all medical communications were synchronous, person-to-person, in the same room. Hopefully that kind of care will never disappear. But in the UK’s increasingly hectic and understaffed healthcare system, new technologies can lead to better experiences for both patients and staff.

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