24 hours society means “We wouldn’t be without Patient Partner” says South Coast, Dorset surgery
As a society, we are now used to 24-hour access to almost whatever we want. With late-night convenience shopping, Sunday opening and 24-hour banking via the internet as the norm, it’s no wonder that GP opening hours are being questioned. Whilst the reality of the huge additional expense of physically staffing reception over the weekend or into the evening is rarely taken into account, there are more financially viable ways to extend patient access.
The idea for Patient Partner was born out of the question ‘how can we improve patient access without increasing staff costs?’ The result was a system that works alongside a practice’s existing telephone system, which can take calls from patients around the clock. Regardless of the surgery’s opening hours, patients can book, cancel or rearrange their appointments whenever they choose. Whilst the idea of the 24-hour society might seem the preserve of city dwellers; it is also very popular with the more forward-thinking rural Practice Manager.
Bringing round the clock booking to the Dorset Surgery
The Dorset Surgery is located in the south of England, a few miles north of the South Coast, in a largely residential area. The practice currently employs 22 staff, including 5 GPs and 17 staff in a range of clinical and administrative roles. It is part of the umbrella of Dorset and Somerset Health Authority
“The management team hoped that introducing an automated system would make it easier for patients to get through, in addition to easing pressure on the receptionists.”
“The customer service and support from Voice Connect has been good throughout”
The surgery is committed to high quality patient care and works hard to keep patients informed about events and services with a comprehensive website as well as regular practice newsletters that patients can subscribe to online.
The Partners and Practice Manager at the Dorset Surgery decided to install an automated appointment system as a means of increasing patient choice and access. Whilst patients are currently able to cancel appointments and order repeat prescriptions online, they can make appointments only via the phone. The management team hoped that introducing an automated system would make it easier for patients to get through, in addition to easing pressure on the receptionists.
After meeting with representatives from Voice Connect, the decision was made to go ahead with Patient Partner, and the system was installed.
The installation went smoothly, and the Practice Manager felt that Voice Connect supported them through the installation process. “The customer service and support from Voice Connect has been good throughout”, the Practice manager comments.
It seems that the patients at the Dorset Surgery like that they can make appointments around the clock seven days a week – a feature which is particularly popular with those who work full time or at unsociable hours. The surgery also continues advertising the service to encourage more patients to use it. “Patient Partner has certainly helped with patient satisfaction – the patients who use it really like it,” comments the Practice Manager. “We would like to see a greater uptake of the service in the future, but it has taken a lot of pressure from the receptionists. This has also saved on the salary budget as the number of telephone calls coming into reception has dropped. This didn’t happen overnight: it took a while for our patients to get used to the system and to use it, but neither the staff nor our patients want to be without Patient Partner now.”