Patients struggling to speak to you? It needn’t be this way.
It won’t come as news to many GPs that, according to the BBC, more and more patients are struggling to get through to their doctor make an appointment via the phone. The perfect storm of rising patient numbers, a rise in groups that are most in need of care, and a dwindling pool of GPs is, not surprisingly, resulting in ever more stress at the point where those three converge: Morning reception.
Quoting stats from an NHS England Survey, the BBC article suggests that in the worst examples, 1 in 2 people are struggling to reach their GP practices by phone.
Many talk of a “one minute window” – that magic slot between 8.00am and 8.01, where you might – just might – get through and secure an appointment that day, forcing some patients to abandon the phone altogether and join physical queues at the surgery just to book an appointment.
When it gets to this point, it’s clear something’s gone drastically wrong. Technology is supposed to make communication with patients easier, not become an obstacle to them getting the care they need.
It’s time we started thinking and acting differently. If patients who don’t require immediate attention called at other times of day, and practices took a more proactive approach to call management, some of the challenges of patient access can be reduced.
And while we fully understand the pressures, we know that even with the many demands on GPs and their reception teams, there are real opportunities for GPs to do better. We know, because we’ve seen the evidence, where surgeries have rebalanced demand, so that reception staff can do their jobs without stress, and patients are able to get through to their surgeries when they need to. Take just two of our clients for example:
1: Jai Medical (North London, 5-surgery practice) receive 7 calls per minute between 8.00am and 8.10am, with less than 1 call per minute throughout the rest of the day. Patients calling in receive a welcome message and queue updates, so they always know what’s happening with their call. And if one surgery is busy, patients are automatically sent through to another surgery where their call can be taken. This has reduced abandon rates by 20% and ensures more than 75% of calls are answered within a minute.
2: Swan Surgery, (Petersfield, Hants) operates a Total Telephone Triage system, decreasing the rush for appointments early in the morning. This has smoothed demand to fewer than 5 calls per minute at its peak (8am) with a manageable 2 calls per minute throughout the rest of the day.
Maximise responsiveness, minimise stress
There can be considerable stress for patients, and those calling to make an appointment on behalf of others, when they are held in a queue. In both the above examples, that stress can be minimised when callers are kept informed of their place in the queue and non-urgent callers are encouraged to call at quieter times to reduce overall call numbers. Ultimately this results in more patients being spoken to, more of the right care being administered, and more patient issues being resolved at the first point of contact.
“Delivering all our patient calls into a dedicated assessment team ahead of GP Total Telephone Triage (TTT) and having our calls managed through Sesui gives us an insight into calling behaviour and enables us to improve practice efficiency and patient experience.”
– Swan Surgery
And the improvements don’t need to stop at the initial call: we’re also helping practices extend access to care through flexible and remote working, enabling GPs to make conduct more consultations via phone and video from any location, with all the patient information, security and operational reportability they enjoy at the surgery.