Building for a digital future: Triage solution cuts waiting times

Published: 16-Dec-2021

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Netcall deliver the latest cloud-based Liberty Converse solution to digitally empower the workforce and provide triage filtering for incoming calls

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the UK’s largest and busiest acute hospital trusts, with seven hospitals providing integrated care to patients from Leeds, the wider region, and in some cases from across the UK.

The trust aims to be a leader shaping the digital future of the NHS and is investing to realise this vision.

Two new hospitals are planned – a new adult hospital and a world-class new children’s hospital, both on the site of Leeds General Infirmary.

The Trust is already moving to digital solutions to help patients and staff, and is committed to keeping the patient experience at the heart of everything they do.

But it has to use its resources sensibly and invest in technology that will grow with its services and in accordance with its their five-year plan.

The trust’s general manager of outpatients, Richard Moyes, said: “We want our workforce to be digitally empowered and to provide a good experience for staff and patients, using IT which just works.”

The trust’s Patient Administration System is currently being updated to give all teams more flexibility. Then the trust wants to have more ways for patients to engage digitally with clinical services, while protecting those patients that have no access to digital technology.

Patient-centred changes

The move to digital engagement started with appointments – in the referral and booking service.

Each year the trust delivers around 1.3 million outpatient appointments, which will continue to grow post-COVID.

We want our workforce to be digitally empowered and to provide a good experience for staff and patients, using IT which just works

And the outpatient department supports a multidisciplinary team of 600 colleagues that includes the referral and booking service.

By 2020, with the impact of COVID-19, its contact centre solution was reaching capacity, so the trust migrated to the latest cloud-based Liberty Converse solution from Netcall.

Usefully, this freed up infrastructure to be used elsewhere.

A flexible, work-from-anywhere, future

The migration included moving from old fixed land lines and introducing soft phones, also supplied by Netcall.

This positioned the booking service and its agents perfectly to face the pandemic.

Moyes explains: “It was brilliant for social distancing. We could maintain business as usual with our call handlers working from home, or from any location away from the main hospital site; resilience and business continuity are built in.”

The new arrangement allows the agents to work from home with the correct governance in place.

And activity on Liberty is shown on a large screen in the business support managers’ office so they can ensure efficiencies and position colleagues to meet demand as it fluctuates throughout the day.

The change is already making a difference to patients. They are not waiting so long on the lines, and fewer calls need to be passed to the medical teams.

Historically, each specialist area within the referral and booking service had its own telephone number and DDI lines – cardiology, neurology, and so on.

But call queuing wasn’t flexible and this meant that peak call loads for one department might cause patients to queue on the exchange, and other departments couldn’t assist.

Moyes said: “Liberty lets us have a triage team that filters our incoming calls.

“We find that about 60% of our patients just want to amend a booking, so we action it there and then, and we only forward a call to specialist teams if it needs specific clinical expertise.”

And, as Liberty has a call-back function, patients don’t have to hang on the line. They can have a call back when they reach the top of the queue.

This is a huge improvement, as callers had been known to wait up to 20 minutes.

Another change is that GP calls can be routed straight through.

Game-changing new infrastructure

Calls have increased post-COVID with daily call volumes typically peaking at about 1,400 calls.

We are focusing on making our systems work well for our patients and our staff now, putting the foundations in place for our digital future

And now patients are being referred into the hospital again, the backlog of demand is coming through, and Liberty Converse allows the booking service to manage the flood of calls easier.

The call-abandon rate used to be as high as 30-40% and now that’s reduced to low single figures.

The trust also has a much-clearer picture of the real demand from patients.

Caring for staff

The deployment as also had an impact on staff, with the trust able to identify training gaps and make the service more efficient,.

When there is a complaint from a patient, the call recording feature means the trust can act to protect its staff and learn from incidents.

The move towards digital engagement needs to embrace the trust’s existing Patient Administration System infrastructure.

And Leeds is using Netcall’s Patient Hub to take its first steps towards managing patient appointments digitally.

The trust’s teams are working with Netcall to ensure that data flows both ways – to and from the administration system – to create an easy experience for patients and staff.

And the Trust needs to use every appointment slot that’s available, and managing appointments and reminders digitally helps to achieve this.

It also lets patients see their appointment details in real time.

Moyes adds: “Every step we make now contributes to how we will work in our new ‘Hospitals of the Future’.

“We are focusing on making our systems work well for our patients and our staff now, putting the foundations in place for our digital future.”

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