The staff room looks out over fields, a couple of hens pecking in the long grass over the fence. We’ve driven Lincolnshire’s challenging roads and arrived through quiet village streets and bungalows. Think everything Salford isn’t: elderly, stable, families and retired.
The new record set by Ruskington Medical Practice was to abolish the old and launch a completely new system from receipt of order in just ten days.
It’s the last place in the UK you’d expect to see this, but from day one they have got 80% of demand online.
They know that almost everyone under 65 has online access, and a large proportion of much older patients. The patients haven’t yet realised there’s an easier way to get help, so if they ignore the GP recorded message, the receptionist asks:
“Do you shop online?”
That simple question, almost always answered yes, means they can be directed to the website (or sent a welcome email) and off they go. Request arrives online, it’s sorted to the appropriate person, and completed within a median 91 minutes. Only 23% need a face to face or visit.
Credit to practice manager Jules for that phrase – we love simple. She’s happy, staff are happy, GPs happy, and patient feedback shows 78% say the new system is better (one aged 90), only 12 days in.
Jules tells me demand is below prediction, which I find slightly annoying as we do like to get this right.
I’ve counted and “Do you shop online?” has exactly half the syllables of “Patient Communication Strategy”. It would be funny if it wasn’t sad, but NHS England’s Patient Online programme has taken 8 years and spent countless £millions of taxpayers’ money on telling patients to book appointments online, and they’ve reached 4%.
It hasn’t worked and it will never work because GPs are smart enough to realise that allowing patients to book all their time will waste a good 2/3rds of it.
Here’s the offer that works for patients:
Tell us who you are and what is your problem, and we’ll work out how to help you. Boom.
You’d be amazed how many times GPs tell me “this wouldn’t work for our patients” – perhaps because they’ve tried something which didn’t work. That is why simplicity is so important, and why Computer Must Never Say No.
Ruskington at 80% still welcome those with no online access. Suburban Hounslow is another new launch, 86% online, Salford remain highest at 98%.
We’re looking forward to a Surrey commuter practice making the last launch of 2019 on 23rd December, and a Lincs seaside town the first of 2020 on 2nd January.
Never know who might set a new record…
PS Often a fear of “opening the floodgates” leaves people torn about the risk of change. In the recorded webinar Understanding Demand we examine the evidence of what happens. Free to register.
For an idea of how the askmyGP could put you in control of your day, click here to get our four user stories.
The walk down from Manchester Piccadilly is a fascinating cityscape, and then crossing the river Irwell into Salford it seems everything is in flux.
Here, between the £180/night Lowry Hotel and the £35/night Salford Arms Hotel, lies Blackfriars Medical Practice. Perhaps that’s a metaphor for the patients Dr Babar Farooq and his team serve: young, mobile, diverse and with fortunes right across the spectrum.
It’s free to join his list and free to get help – the NHS is a great leveller.
What’s unique is that when Blackfriars launched askmyGP three weeks ago they moved 97% of their patient demand online, from day one.
There’s no messing about – Linda on reception simply tells the patients what they need to do. They send online, they get sorted within a few hours (median time to complete the episode is 193 minutes). Computer never says no.
Inside the practice with the phone not constantly ringing the drop in stress and pressure is palpable. They are bouncing. Babar keeps telling me how happy he is, and he’s resolving 38% of requests simply by message.
Patients? 86% say the new system is better. “I was surprised at how quick my question was responded to. Much faster than calling.” is a typical response, female 29.
Their demographic is young, mostly 20s and 30s, so we wouldn’t expect every practice to get this many online, 80% would be more reasonable for the average normal digital first GP.
Blackfriars in week 3? They’ve just ticked up to 99%.
Pictured, between the yellow sign and the railway bridge, ground floor.