In the NHS Long Term Plan, a target was set for every part of the country to be an Integrated Care System (ICS) by 2021. According to NHS England, this target has now been achieved.

Integrated Care Systems represent a close collaboration between NHS organisations, local government and others – all joining forces so they are better able to improve the health of their populations and offer well coordinated, efficient services to those who need them.

Whilst it’s recognised that local services can provide better and more joined up care for patients when different organisations work together in this way, technology plays a key role in supporting and maximising the efficiencies of these new ways of working.

That’s why, in the development of new features for our PatientPack app, the needs of ICSs were placed at the forefront of design. PatientPack was originally developed to support GP practices and their patients with core features including appointment booking, medication requests and patient access to their medical record. Now, we’re working with our customers more and more to connect their local primary and secondary care as well as community health services to the app – underpinning the newer ICS model, generating efficiencies for providers and delivering a more seamless and smooth patient experience.

Extended access appointment booking

PatientPack’s appointment booking technology allows patients to choose an appointment specifically with the practitioner relevant to their needs, and enables them to book in at other GP surgeries/hubs across their PCNs (including out of hours, or weekend slots), as well as other primary and community health care providers within the ICS. Appointment reminders are integrated and have been shown to reduce DNAs by 20%, so it all works effectively to support and link providers together, whilst generating efficiencies too.

Centralised medication

PCNs can use the app to route all medication requests from practices in their network through to a centralised hub. After identifying that over 38% of their practice workload was medication related, one of our GP Federation customers set up a centralised hub to deal with all the medication requests for eight of their member practices.  By centralising the service, the Federation achieved cost savings of £375,000 in the first year of operation, and was able to significantly reduce their medication wastage.

Signposting to local care providers through the Service Directory

The service directory is a useful feature used by ICSs to promote and navigate patients to other local and community health and care providers such as local mental health support services, coronavirus information, sexual health services and pharmacy finders.

Online self-referral

Self-referral functionality is another new PatientPack feature which enables patients to refer themselves into NHS services across an ICS such as maternity, mental health and speech and language therapy. This means that patients can effectively bypass the usual process of contacting the GP to discuss the referral, and the GP/practice avoids the associated time and paperwork. The patient also saves time by following a smooth, convenient process.

We recently worked with Rotherham CCG to develop a new online referral process for maternity services across their district. It’s designed to cut unnecessary manual work/admin time for practices, streamline processes for the Trust and simplify the process for patients.

Previously, to be referred into maternity services, patients would need to attend the practice in person to pick up a referral form. They’d need to complete it manually and return back to the practice for the reception team to scan and email across to Rotherham Foundation Trust’s Greenoaks maternity department. From January 2021, patients have been encouraged to complete an online referral via The Rotherham Health App (the district’s branded version of PatientPack) which is used by every GP surgery in Rotherham.

It’s already saving practices substantial time, and is phase one of a project to digitise more of their maternity administration, and reduce the costs associated with current processes.

In phase two of Rotherham’s drive to become paperless and meet the requirements of NHS England’s Digital Maternity Transformation Programme, we’ll be working with the CCG and NHS Foundation Trust to provide pregnant patients with access to their electronic maternity record via the app. A digital patient record will initially be an optional replacement of the current paper hand-held notes, and is expected to significantly reduce print costs associated with the current paper version. The electronic notes will be easily accessible by the patients under the care of maternity services in Rotherham via the app, eliminating the need for patients to carry a paper record around with them.

Out-patient appointment viewing

In line with Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust’s paperless strategy, is the development of new functionality in the Rotherham Health App, that enables patients in the region to view their outpatient appointments.

Until recently, The Rotherham Health App had been used to view GP practice appointment bookings only. But with around 7-8% of outpatient appointments at the Trust missed each month, it’s anticipated that providing digital visibility of appointment information will enable convenient reminders to help reduce DNAs, and encourage more patients to re-arrange appointments they can’t make. This in turn will help to ensure that other patients on waiting lists can be moved up to newly freed up appointment slots that would previously have been wasted, reducing patient wait times and backlogs.

Long term, the Foundation Trust’s plan is to eliminate paper appointment letters altogether, in order to save significant costs per year.

Bespoke and customisable technology

We pride ourselves on the close working relationships we develop with our customers. We recognise that every ICS is different, and off-the-shelf software isn’t likely to work for everyone, which is why we work with our customers to localise our digital solutions to meet their specific needs.

If you’re looking for a health technology company to work in partnership with, we would love to hear from you! Get in touch by email at info@substrakthealth.com.

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