Hospital bosses turn to 'chatbots' to reduce the time people spend on waiting lists

‘Chatbots’ are being used aross hospital trusts in the North West in an attempt to reduce time spent on waiting lists.

The automated call system guides patients through a series of questions designed by NHS consultants and healthcare experts, enabling people to let NHS Trusts know if their condition has worsened and possibly, speed up their treatment or if they no longer require treatment.

>>>Click here for waiting lists by department at the Royal Preston Hospital

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A pilot recently carried out saw 2,282 waiting list patients in Morecambe Bay and Preston receive an automated call asking them about their health condition. Three quarters (75 per cent) of patients responded to either the automated call, or a follow-up call from a member of staff.

Waiting lists are under the microscope in Lancashire

The first stage of roll-out of the service has been so successful that it is now being extended to patients in two other areas of Lancashire.

The results

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The results of the pilot found:

- 15 per cent of all patients indicated that they were able to leave the waiting list

- 85 per cent of all patients indicated they were able to remain on the waiting list;

- Ten per cent of inpatients indicated they required an appointment sooner.

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What happens next?

On the back of the pilot, another 2,000 patients in Blackpool and East Lancashire will now be contacted by the automated system. Patients will receive an SMS text message beforehand to warn them to expect the call.

Gary Doherty, Director of Service Development at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “ChatBot has had some fantastic results, both for our patients and for the NHS hospitals treating them, demonstrating what a great initiative this is.

People in Blackpool and East Lancashire should not be worried if they receive a text message or a call from a number they don’t recognise. The service will be similar to telephone banking, but no one will be asked to divulge any sensitive information on the call.

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“This is an opportunity for patients to make sure they are reviewed for treatment, at the same time as freeing up NHS staff resources. If patients in Blackpool and East Lancashire engage with the service in the same way, that will be a successful result for patients and their local hospital.”

Patients can find out more at healthierlsc.co.uk/chatbot