Healthcare Communications helps King’s College Hospital advance its ‘digital by default’ strategy

Patient portal, video consultation platform, and chatbot function will enable trust to improve the patient experience and increase efficiency amid second wave of COVID-19

A suite of technology solutions will be used to help King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust drive efficiencies and enable patients to be more involved in their care

Healthcare Communications is assisting King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (KCHT) to implement a suite of solutions purpose built to improve the patient experience and increase staff efficiency.

The new technology will enable the trust to advance its ‘digital by default’ patient engagement strategy, while also helping to reduce any backlogs caused by the Coronavirus pandemic before a second spike takes hold, and ahead of this year’s winter pressures.

The contract was agreed in August and will run until 2025, and as part of the agreement, the trust will implement Healthcare Communications’ patient portal and eClinic video consultation platform, alongside eight additional solutions from the company’s patient engagement platform.

The patient portal is designed to inform patients about the status of their appointments by automatically sending updates and digital letters to their smartphones, relieving staff of these administrative pressures.

The portal will also enable Patient Initiated Follow-Ups (PIFU) and help the trust to reduce inbound phone traffic, by allowing patients to confirm, cancel, or rebook appointments digitally at the click of a button, rather than phoning into the switchboard or specific departments.

And eClinic will help to reduce the number of patients visiting KCHT hospitals for non-emergency appointments.

Even before the pandemic, we were beginning to see an increased appetite for patients wanting to take greater control of their own care, and our technology will allow them to do just that, while also reducing the burden of heavy administrative workloads and enabling remote engagement between staff and patients

The platform, complete with file-sharing capabilities, a chat function, and translation feature, will also be used to provide urgent care for patients who cannot attend in person.

Jonathan Lofthouse, site chief executive for the Princess Royal University Hospital, said: “At King’s, it has always been our agenda to move to a ‘digital by default position’, which is why we were keen to put digital technology at the forefront of our recovery and reset programmes.

“We firmly believe our richly-diverse patient population deserves the very best in healthcare, and to deliver this we often need to reimagine what’s gone before.

“Using new communication platforms will aid patient self-management; improve the speed, quality and accessibility of information; increase the quality of our clinical services; and help us to deliver against the future expectation of our patients and clinicians. I’m really very excited about this programme of work.”

Charlotte English, senior improvement lead at King’s College Hospital, added: “We’re dealing with a significant amount of Referral to Treatment (RTT) requests, which has been exacerbated by COVID, so it’s really exciting to be exploring ways in which patients can take more ownership over their care, such as PIFU.

“We hadn’t really explored this before, and we expect it to reduce our follow-up waiting lists.

“We’re hoping it will also result in a drop in hospital admissions, which would be fantastic, especially as we enter our winter pressures and with the second wave of COVID looking imminent.”

In addition to the patient portal and eClinic platform, KCHT will deploy a range of supplementary communication solutions from the patient engagement platform, including:

  • Instant patient messaging: This allows clinicians to send instant messages to large groups of patients, or schedule messages for a specific time and date. The application will be used to cancel clinics, send important health messages, and encourage patients to shift to virtual channels
  • Appointment scheduling bot: This enhances a patients’ ability to self service by allowing them to reschedule their appointments
  • Virtual assistants and pro-active communication channels: A series of automated chatbots will respond to patient enquiries, and there are tools which allow patients to respond to hospital communications digitally
  • Digital remote monitoring: This remotely monitors patient conditions across their care pathway through eForms, chatbots and SMS

Kenny Bloxham, managing director of Healthcare Communications, said: “We’re delighted to have agreed a five-year partnership with King’s and we’re looking forward to supporting it in its recovery phase and helping to advance its‘digital by default’ IT strategy.

At King’s, it has always been our agenda to move to a ‘digital by default position’, which is why we were keen to put digital technology at the forefront of our recovery and reset programmes

“Even before the pandemic, we were beginning to see an increased appetite for patients wanting to take greater control of their own care, and our technology will allow them to do just that, while also reducing the burden of heavy administrative workloads and enabling remote engagement between staff and patients.”

To streamline access between systems, Healthcare Communications has integrated eClinic with Intouch Health’s patient flow module.

In addition, the company is working with KCHT on plans to extend accessibility to the patient engagement platform, following internal research that showed patients would prefer to access care from home.

This includes simplifying elements of the technology, such as digital patient letters, to meet the needs of patients with cognitive disabilities.

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