Patients attending Outpatient appointments at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) will start to be able to book their own follow up appointment via SMS text message, instead of having an appointment booked for them and sent through the post.
Approximately 530,763 people attended Outpatient appointments between April 2018 and March 2019. Of these appointments, approximately 380,000 were follow up appointments. Currently these appointments are made for patients and sent out through the post via an appointment letter.
The new system will allow patients to book their own appointments at a date and time which is suitable to them and provides an option for patients to decline or cancel the appointment should they need to.
If the Trust has a patient’s mobile phone number and they have not opted out of the service, a text will be sent to them with a pin number to access the system, will then allow the appointment to be booked. An option will be available for patients to be contacted rather than book directly if required.
If the link is not accessed within 48 hours this will be flagged to the hospital booking teams who will book the patient an appointment.
Once patients have booked their appointments an electronic letters - known as e-letters - will be sent using a text system which was introduced in the Trust in August 2020.
Each year 8% of appointments - that’s approximately 47,000 - are wasted through patients who did not attend and 93,000 appointments are cancelled by patients. By offering a more convenient way of booking appointments and modernising the service in line with how more people are using digital technology UHMBT hopes this will reduce the number of people who do not attend appointments or cancel appointments, allowing a more efficient Outpatient service.
It will also help the Trust to become more environmentally friendly by cutting down on paper usage and free up time for Outpatient clerks to spend more time engaging with patients and other key tasks.
The UHMBT electronic booking system will be piloted in Gynaecology services and if successful will be rolled out to other services.
This initiative is part of the ongoing technological transformation of UHMB and the wider NHS.
Sarah Hauxwell, Clinical Director for Core Clinical Services, UHMBT, said: "The e-booking system will allow us to be more responsive to the needs of our patients; it will allow people to access healthcare at a time that works for them."
Alison Whiteside, Patient Access Manager for UHMBT, said: “This new way of working shows how we are moving forward as a Trust through the use of new digital technology."
At any time, patients can opt out of using the service. Access to personal data is secure and restricted to those who have a legitimate reason to access for the purpose of providing healthcare.