Bid to slash missed appointments by sending electronic appointment letters to outpatients at Preston and Chorley hospitals

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is introducing new technology to allow patients to receive appointment letters directly to their mobile phone.

Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 4:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 4:49 pm
Example of how a digital outpatients letter might look

The new letters will be issued to all outpatients who have registered a mobile phone number with the trust, which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley Hospitals.

Every year the Trust sends around 744,000 letters by post, with an approximate cost of around £75,000. Despite this and text reminders, during 2017/18, 8.5 per cent of appointments were missed. That is a total of 51,895 missed appointments, equating to costs of £8.3m.

It is hoped the new system will help to reduce the number of missed appointments as well as improving patient experience.

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Karen Partington, Chief Executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us to improve the safety, care and experience we provide to our patients.

"It will make the appointment process easier for our patients giving them all the information they need at their fingertips thanks to the really interactive system available. We also know that this has the potential to help us generate financial efficiencies through an anticipated reduction in missed appointments and postage charges.”

Any patient referred to an outpatient service provided by the Trust who already has a mobile phone number registered on their patient record will receive a text message containing a unique 4-digit PIN and secure link to their appointment letter.

As well as their appointment date and time the digital letter also include pre-assessment instructions, essential reading and hospital information.

To access the letter patients simply click the link to their secure access page and enter the PIN number provided and date of birth and the appointment letter will then appear.

Within one click patients will be able to confirm, cancel or arrange to rebook their appointment.

Once an appointment is confirmed this can also then be added directly into patients’ phone calendars to provide reminders. The digital letter can also be saved for later or printed off too.

If patients don’t have a mobile phone, or their number isn’t registered with the hospital, a paper appointment letter will be issued in the post. For paediatric patients, the child’s parent or guardian will receive the letter on their behalf.

Starting in April 2019, all new general outpatient appointments where a mobile phone number is already registered will be issued using the new digital system. Existing appointments will not be affected.

Patients who prefer to receive a postal appointment letter will still be able to.