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DrDoctor to help cut backlog of millions of hospital appointments

Posted: 22nd May 2020

We are profiling some of the innovators we’ve been working with who have tried and tested solutions available to support healthcare providers in our region with their response to COVID-19. In this first post we’re focusing on DrDoctor.

With millions of hospital appointments expected to be delayed by the COVID-19 virus crisis, innovative business DrDoctor is now well advanced with plans to help cut the backlog.

Its software was created to help patients make and change appointments online, on their smartphone, or by SMS, view letters and complete forms, and to give staff a much simpler way to communicate remotely. In 2018 it was used for eight million NHS appointments, and has been rolled out successfully across 27 hospital Trusts nationwide.

And now, having seen a massive rise in elective care waiting lists caused by COVID-19, DrDoctor has developed the software so that patients can be assessed for symptoms prior to a face-to-face appointment; provided a backlog validation tool to assess waiting lists and stratify risk; and introduced patient initiated follow-ups.

The company believes that the NHS has responded heroically to the crisis as it re-organised front line services to tackle the surge of infectious cases.

Ferdi Rex, Sales Lead for DrDoctor, said:

“One element of the response has been the cancellation of non-essential appointments, a smart decision but one that creates vast new obstacles for the NHS as we recover. Re-booking millions of appointments across the NHS presents a tremendous challenge, one that can only be met with new approaches and close collaboration between the health tech community and the NHS.”

DrDoctor has worked with partner Trusts to learn from their COVID-19 responses and created a software action plan to help them break the backlog of appointments.

The company believes this recovery programme will support Trusts through the crisis, enable healthcare to transform, and help make the vision of the NHS Long Term plan a reality.

In detail, Rex says, it entails:

  • An immediate response, broadcasting national advice and informing large patient cohorts of cancellations and key updates to non-essential care. This will also deliver vital updates to staff across multiple sites, reducing the administrative workload of consistent communication
  • Continuing essential outpatient services remotely via video and telephone consultations. Integration with the Trusts’ systems ensures patients automatically receive timely reminders containing a video link to ensure time isn’t wasted.
  • Mitigating risk by remotely monitoring and triaging patients based on risk and checking symptoms of those due to attend face-to-face appointments.
  • This reduces the risk of symptomatic or vulnerable patients attending clinics by automatically sending patients an assessment to check for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Scheduling the backlog and utilising every slot while reducing the administrative burden by automating patient booking. This also improves clinic utilisation and maximises capacity by automatically offering late notice cancellations to relevant patients.
  • Managing demand by enabling patients to be seen based on need and not time by implementing new models of care to manage demand and capacity.
  • Digitally enabling hospitals where patients can self-manage and easily access care when they need

Rex, who said that Yorkshire & Humber AHSN had been fundamental in supporting DrDoctor embed its technology across the region, added:

“Even once the backlog has been broken, the challenge of delivering sustainable care remains. The world now spends 10% of its GDP on healthcare, and the number of outpatient appointments in the UK has doubled in the last ten years. Digital transformation offers the tools to enable healthcare to evolve into an efficient, sustainable system.”

Our work with DrDoctor: 

Yorkshire & Humber AHSN supported a live trial and deployment of the portal in Doncaster, where DrDoctor was implemented by the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust in August 2019 to reduce its ‘Did Not Attend’ rate, improve clinic utilisation, save money and improve patient experience. The results of this work so far are:

  • For specialities live with the DrDoctor Portal, ‘Did Not Attend’ rates were cut by 17% within four months of switching on
  • £215,000 saved in four months (calculated by DrDoctor, based on an average cost per appointment of £108)
  • Projected savings across first 12 months of £690,000 (had there been no impact from Coronavirus-19)
  • Return on investment of £4.05 to £1 spent

Neville Young, Director of Enterprise and Innovation says:

“DrDoctor are an innovative company making it easier for patients and Trusts to manage their outpatient appointments. Unsurprisingly they have continued to innovate to meet the needs of both hospitals and patients during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to work with them to ensure that patients and the NHS in our region get the most out of this innovation.”