Helen Murray - Account Manager

Could we do more to prevent DNAs?

I recently read an article venting frustrations at persistent ‘DNA-ers’ and as an ex-practice manager I completely understand the frustrations around this.  Patients are not fully aware of the implications of missed appointments; how wasteful and costly it is to the NHS; the pressures GPs face on extended opening and the length of time other patients may have to wait to be seen. 

The author of this article mentioned that their practice now send text messages and some patients had even had the audacity to ask for the surgery to ring them and remind them of their appointment!  The general opinion of the author was that patients should make a note of their appointment and just simply remember it.   Yes it is highly annoying when people do not attend and you are bursting at the seams with patients who want to be seen NOW and then of course you have the patients who really NEED to be seen NOW.

Communicating to reduce stress can be an important part of life. Developing effective communications can help avoid stressful misunderstandings, false assumptions and mistakes.”

To a certain extent there were some parts of the article that I could relate to, however, myself, as full time employed person who also happens to be a patient with what seems like a million and one things to remember to do every day, I actually thought the article was a little narrow minded.  I really appreciate the fact that I now get a text to remind me of not only my GP appointment, but my dentist, my car service, my haircut, my parcel delivery times; I have an app on my phone to remind me to take medication and I rely on technology for so many other things in my busy life.  I am fortunate enough to not need to attend many medical related appointments, yet I still find the reminders I do get very useful.

For some patients though, they may have a myriad of appointments to attend in any one week, their Chronic Disease Management review with the nurse, their weekly mental health appointments with the GP, district nurse visits, hospital appointments, their child’s immunisations, their patient participation group meeting attendance...the list goes on.  Maybe they didn't receive a letter asking them to come in on a certain day or maybe they have memory problems, maybe their carer has several appointments of their own too and forgot about theirs...

So, a lot of practices, including my own, now offer a text message service to patients to remind them of their appointment which is great, but could it be more?  What do I do if I can no longer make the appointment or I am now feeling better and no longer need the appointment?  Yes, I can call the surgery to cancel but I can’t get through on the phone.  I could go on-line to use the cancellation service – but I’m too busy, I’ll do it later...oops, too late, I’ve missed the appointment.  What I would really like is to be able to cancel the appointment by responding to the text; that would be so much more convenient and is something I could do straight away.  It would also mean that the practice now has a spare slot to offer to the patients that need the appointment that day.

What about patients that need to attend for chronic disease management appointments?  They may have to have fasting blood tests or they may need to remember to not take their inhalers before the spirometry test.  If they forget and eat, or use their inhalers that’s another wasted appointment.  It may even be a double or triple appointment.    What if we could call them to remind them of such things as well as confirm if they are attending?

Effective communication is a key driver at ERS Medical. At ERS Connect we provide efficient and cost effective methods of communicating with patients.

So whether it is a phone call to ensure the patient is aware of their appointment and given the opportunity to cancel or a text to remind them to bring their medication with them, ERS Connect can help you ensure that you have a robust reminder service to suit the needs of your patients.

We are also aware that patients are a diverse bunch and will prefer different methods of communication so we offer a suite of formats, including:

  • IVR (interactive voice response) calls
  • Agent calls
  • Text messaging
  • Interactive emails

This suite of formats is interchangeable and flexible. We can design packages to suit the specific needs of our customers and patients, such as a IVR call that automatically switches to an agent call if there are two false attempts, or an agent call followed by a text message prompt.

A blend of ERS Connect IVR and Agent calls has been proven to reduce DNA rates by 45%.

If you would like to know about any more of the above then please contact me at helen@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk


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