The deadline that NHS England set for practices to ensure that at least 10% of their patients are registered for online services passed on 31 March.
While there were many practices that were making good use of online services before this date, there were still a large amount of practices who were missing out on the benefits they can bring. From giving patients access to their medical record to allowing them to order repeat prescriptions at any time online, they help patients to better-manage their health and wellbeing while reducing the strain on busy practice staff. They also have proven advantages when it comes to improving practice efficiency, like reducing ‘no-show’ rates, which are 35% less for appointments booked online compared to those booked conventionally.
Spreading the word
To increase registrations we worked closely with NHS England, as well as with practices using our online service, Patient Access.
We helped practices to get the word out to their patients by providing them with free promotional materials like posters and content for waiting room TV screens. We also gave them a ring to make sure that they were aware of the target, and provided them with webinars and training so that they could understand Patient Access better and help patients to get registered.
It meant that while at the beginning of January, 59% of practices had at least 10% of their patients registered, by the end of March over 76% had met or surpassed the goal. It also resulted in an over 50% reduction in the amount of practices with less than 5% of patients registered to Patient Access (dropping from 1,062 to 523), and meant that 182 practices moved past the 5-10% registered users range too.
These newly registered patients now join the 5.1 million patients who signed up to Patient Access in 2016. It means they’ll be able to take part in the 6.5 million appointments that were booked and the 10.3 million prescriptions that were ordered through the service over the year, giving them access to GP services without them having to visit or call the practice.
Tripling online patients in one week
There were many practices who enthusiastically campaigned to meet the 10% target – and there were many who went far beyond these goals.
Duke Street Surgery in Barrow-in-Furness is just one of the practices that did just that. Thanks to an all-out campaign with their 9,500 patients, they increased their Patient Access registrations from 3.5% to 11% in just one week. It was through campaign activity like texting 3,000 patients – and receiving an over 10% response rate in the first day – that they were able to reach such significant numbers.
They also ensured that all their staff were trained and briefed so that they were confident with asking patients to sign up. Duke Street Surgery also did everything they could to make patients aware of Patient Access by using their website and social media to signpost to the service, and displaying our promotional materials across waiting rooms.
As practice manager Laura Hodgkinson mentioned, “We came back from the Christmas break and thought there was no way we could get up to 10% by the March deadline. But then we just went for it!”
It turned out that their effort was well worth the work in the end – not only did they see a huge spike in the first week, but they managed to achieve 21% total patient registration after 11 weeks of work.
Don’t stop yet
While the target deadline may have been and gone, the benefits that online services offer to patients and practices remain. Even if your practice is above the 10% target now, it’s worthwhile to continue to get the word out to patients about the access that they have.
Our promotional resources are still available and there’s still a range of things that you can do to help drive registrations – so that even more patients are able to join those who are already viewing their medical record, booking appointments and ordering prescriptions, all online.