Just 25% of NHS trusts have strategy to reduce outpatient waiting times

Most NHS trusts are failing to monitor the amount of time patients spend waiting for appointments, and two thirds do not have targets for patient wait times.

The latest research from patient journey management expert Qmatic has revealed that a significant majority of NHS trusts are failing to implement a comprehensive outpatient journey management strategy, and monitor outpatient waiting times. The data has emerged following a Freedom of Information request sent to 80 NHS foundation trusts to gather information on the strategies and technologies that these organisations have implemented to reduce waiting times, welcome and guide patients through healthcare facilities, and how they are measuring the success of these deployments.

The Key findings of the report see that just 25% of respondents have a strategy in place to reduce outpatient waiting times and there is currently low adoption of patient journey management technology, with just 21% of trusts using self-service kiosks, and 14% using queue management displays.

In terms of performance measurement, of the 32% of respondents who provided data on their waiting times, the majority reported that they aimed to see outpatients within 30 minutes. This means that the vast majority of NHS trusts are not monitoring their performance against those targets, with just 12% reporting their success in meeting targets.

Reducing stress in healthcare facilities

Analysing the findings, Vanessa Walmsley, MD at Qmatic UK, commented: “We all know that attending an appointment at the hospital can be a stressful experience. The last thing that patients want is a confusing experience to the right place, followed by a long wait to be seen by the appropriate clinician. We have seen from our research that not only do most NHS trusts not have an effective strategy in place to ensure that people attending outpatient appointments have as short a wait as possible, many do not even monitor how long people are waiting for outpatient appointments.

“While we found that 32% of trusts reported having waiting time targets, which is the first step towards developing a strategy to reduce outpatient waiting times, just 12% of trusts were able to report their success in meeting these targets. The NHS is under significant budgetary pressure but it has a responsibility to its patients to provide the best possible healthcare including the overall patient experience, and this starts with developing a strategy to manage the patient journey”.

What is an effective patient journey management strategy?

An effective patient journey management strategy starts before the patient has even reached the hospital. NHS trusts need to look to integrate technology into their appointment scheduling, allowing patients to book appointments online, delivering reminders to patients via SMS and enabling them to cancel appointments online, to reduce the incidence and impact of missed appointments.

On arrival, patients should have the option to check in to the hospital in the way they find easiest, whether that is using a smart-phone check in system, a self-serve kiosk or in-person by a mobile enabled member of staff or reception point to notify staff of their arrival. They should also have the option to leave feedback on their experience after their visit, via their mobile device, which can then be analysed by the hospital.

Vanessa concludes: “Healthcare authorities must also consider that patients may have to visit multiple reception areas during a single appointment and make this experience of transitioning from one to another as seamless as possible. A seamless patient journey can make a huge contribution to the comfort which patients experience when they arrive at a hospital, potentially improving outcomes and reducing stress.”

How can Qmatic help improve the patient experience?

Qmatic provide a platform called Orchestra which is a modular, scalable and world-class platform for patient journey management where you only pay for the value you need. Orchestra enables you to offer online appointment booking and self-serve check-in, patient and staff notifications, real-time BI dashboards and reporting, digital displays with waiting time information, voice announcements, patient apps and integrates with other systems and existing infrastructure.

Patients can now wait for appointments virtually via their mobile device

Qmatic’s new Mobile Ticket enables you to significantly improve the experience of patients by enabling them to use their mobile device to select a service and join a virtual queue, giving them all the information they need about their appointment and ensuring that they are guided to the right place within the healthcare facility.

Patients can simply open a web app, or scan a QR code if they prefer, and receive all the details they need regarding their appointment. This eliminates the friction of patients having to wait in line to see a receptionist and gives them information about where to go and which clinician to see, efficiently guiding patients to the right place and ensuring that they are fully informed about the status of their appointment.

To download the full report, visit our website.

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