Better management of the patient journey 'the cure' for long hospital waiting times

Qmatic report says deployment of resources and appointment attendance can be improved through use of modern technology

Improving the patient journey through the use of novel technology will benefit patients and the NHS alike

The NHS is operating under unprecedented financial pressure, with funding barely keeping pace with demand, as demographic changes mean more and more people are utilising services.

However, a focus on the patient journey can play a crucial role in processing outpatients by minimising the effects of bottlenecks like reception desks and enabling healthcare authorities to deploy their resources more effectively.

This is the view of Vanessa Walmsley, managing director at Qmatic, who argues that healthcare authorities must implement a patient journey management strategy that guides patients to the right service point at the right time to reduce the need for staff intervention, allowing them to focus on more value-added activities.

From enabling authorities to deploy their resources more efficiently, to improving appointment attendance and the agility of healthcare services to respond to walk-in patients; healthcare authorities can significantly improve the efficiency of processing outpatients with a well-managed patient journey

She explains: “Outpatient clinics often involve several different patient procedures in one visit, and these procedures need to be co-ordinated to ensure a frictionless and well-organised process.

“A holistic patient journey management strategy can help healthcare authorities to make this process more efficient, guiding patients right through booking their outpatient appointment, keeping them informed of the status of their appointment, and giving them vital information about where to go when they arrive at the hospital.”

A good patient arrival process involves a smooth check-in based on a well-managed appointment. It can be offered either by a helpful staff member at the door equipped with a mobile tablet to concierge patients and provide support, or self-serve kiosks and even robot helpers.

Patients can select kiosk options or simply scan a bar code or QR code from their appointment confirmation.

As a result, the patient receives just the right amount of information and it subsequently reduces the need to seek staff intervention or advice reducing the strain on resources.

A well-executed patient journey management strategy can also steer patients to off-peak hours through an intelligent calendar booking system.

The result of this is that the number of patients visiting the clinic becomes more predictable, allowing for better planning of resources so that more clinical time can be spent with individual patients and on improving quality of care.

Missed appointments, however, are a significant drain on healthcare resources. As such, implementing a patient journey management strategy that can send reminders to patients, via SMS or email, about their appointment can help to reduce the incidence of missed appointments.

Healthcare authorities must consider the people they serve, and recognise that many of their patients may choose to interact with their services through more-traditional channels

Walmsley said: “From enabling authorities to deploy their resources more efficiently, to improving appointment attendance and the agility of healthcare services to respond to walk-in patients; healthcare authorities can significantly improve the efficiency of processing outpatients with a well-managed patient journey.

“However, healthcare authorities must consider the people they serve, and recognise that many of their patients may choose to interact with their services through more-traditional channels.

“They must ensure they give all their patients a choice of how they access services, from the moment they book their appointment, to their arrival at the facility and their progression through the outpatient process.”

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