Online appointments save East Lancashire hospitals £120,000 a year

Burnley General Hospital
Burnley General Hospital

An online appointment system is saving East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust £120,000 a year.

The Trust has switched from a traditional, letter-based appointment management system to a digital patient portal, freeing up 30,000 reusable appointments that would otherwise have been wasted.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust processes 450,000 outpatient appointments a year across five hospitals and 17 community nursing locations in East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen.

Wendy Cowgill, who has used the digital patient portal as a patient, said: “You can access all your appointment information anytime, anywhere. It saves time.

“You have all the information at hand if you need to plan any other events, and you avoid double-booking.”

Daniel Driver, a supervisor in the trust’s booking centre, said: “Prior to the digital portal we were printing off hundreds of appointment letters daily.

“Printers would break due to the volume being processed which would lead to delays, and staff time was spent matching leaflets with appointment letters.

“The portal is a different way of sending appointment letters to patients along with any relevant information.

“It reduces costs for us and confusion for patients.”

The patient portal, which can be accessed via smartphones, tablets and desktops, gives patients appointment times and locations with the ability to confirm, rebook or cancel.

The digital patient portal was launched in July 2018.

By September 2018, 54 per cent of patients had opted to receive their appointment letters and other information digitally, cutting the cost of appointment letters by 51%.

The messenger service and digital patient portal technology was developed by Cheshire-based Healthcare Communications.