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Could you triple your online patient numbers in one week?

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There is so much negativity within the NHS at present, that it's great when you hear of real success. The future of the GP practice is inextricably linked to its technological capability. For example, remote consultations are expected to become more commonplace. They will increase patient access, decrease practice costs, and be less time-consuming.

One direction in which technology is taking us is engagement of patients online. Taking patients online creates a more integrated doctor/patient approach to healthcare. Patients can access their own records, book appointments, and order repeat prescriptions in a more streamlined and hassle-free way.c

NHS England set a target of having 10% all patients registered for online GP services by 31 March 2017. Duke Street Surgery in Barrow-in-Furness put in place a marketing campaign which tripled its number of patients registered for its online services within one week. After less than three months, more than one in five of its patients had become 'digital'.

How did Duke Street Surgery encourage online sign-up?

Duke Street Surgery made a conscientious effort to increase digital patient numbers. Practice Manager Laura Hodgkinson praised all its employees for their successful implementation of policies designed to increase online patient numbers. A plan of action was developed, and instigated by all staff. Measures included:

  • Texting 3,000 patients, with a 10%+ response rate in the first day
  • Training and briefing ALL staff (including GPs) to ensure they were confident in asking patients to register for online services and answering their questions
  • Asking every patient at reception to sign up, and offering them support to do so
  • Putting promotional materials up all around the reception area and waiting room
  • Signposting the service on the practice website and social media

Digital take-up starts within the team

Imperative to success when encouraging patients to sign up for your online services is that all your staff are adept at using them. A patient won't be enthused if they ask a member of staff how to do something online and that member of staff can't answer – especially if the employee has just been extolling your digital virtues.

So, first, train your staff to understand and use your online patient systems.

Second, be prepared for patients to require help in signing up. Set up a computer in a quiet area, and assign a member of staff to help patients sign up, log in, and explore your online services applicable to them.

Third, as new services come online, retrain all staff and maintain their confidence and capability.

What is your practice doing to encourage its patients to sign up for online services? What strategies have worked for you in the drive to increase digital patient numbers? We'd love to hear from you.