Retailers are leading the charge to deliver the next generation customer experience. They recognise that reliable data and integrated technologies are essential to creating a single view of a customer, and a prerequisite for unified communication across multiple channels and departments.
Healthcare, on the other hand, continues to lag behind. It's only in the past few years that healthcare organisations have come to realise that patient experience solutions offer a dual benefit: improving patient satisfaction and employee engagement.
When patients are forced to navigate the organisational boundaries of healthcare providers like the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), they become frustrated, even angry - and that's before figuring out where the NHS stops, and social care starts.
Typically, they take out their frustration out on hospital staff, and instead of caring for patients, healthcare professionals find themselves performing time wasting administrative tasks, fielding questions about appointment delays, and helping patients navigate a maze of corridors. Putting a significant strain on an organisation already struggling under the pressure of a lack of resources.
- The number of FTE nurses employed in the NHS in England fell between April 2016 and April 2017. There were 460 fewer nurses and health visitors in April 2017 compared to a year before, despite rising activity pressures.
- Just 76.4% of patients needing urgent care were treated within four hours at hospital accident and emergency units in England in March – the lowest proportion since records began in 2010 and down on the 76.9% figure in February.
As a step forward, wouldn’t it be nice if the NHS could present itself as a singular entity, if not nationally then at least within a local health community? Even councils have long since established the idea of a ‘one stop shop’ for citizens to access any or all of their services. Why not one system for a patient to make, amend, review or cancel all their appointment bookings with their local NHS?
This type of question usually elicits a response along the lines of ‘the technical limitations of existing systems’ or ‘a lack of funding’. However, there is also a reluctance to collaborate across departments, which further stifles innovation. In truth, it’s not that costly or technically difficult to give patients the ability to book and manage appointments online, across the NHS. Such a service would not only reduce frustration amongst patients but also help improve working conditions and productivity for hospital staff.
There are already solutions on the market that integrate with disparate data sources to offer a unified appointment booking and queue management services. Patient Flow Management software provides clinics and departments with appointment scheduling, patient reception, queuing, routing and interaction management tools. These systems handle all aspects and stages of patient flow, such as reception, triage, routing, preparation, treatment, payment and administration – seamlessly integrating with existing back-office systems.
The longer healthcare providers like the NHS delay implementing simple patient-centric solutions - unified appointment booking, queue management, patient reception, etc. - the further they will fall behind and the more costly it will become to catch up.