NHS Trusts are constantly under pressure to innovate in multiple areas — and managing clinical care and patient flow is also under the microscope. However, those pressure apply to GPs, too, as they are dealing with a colossal backlog due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Data suggests GP practices in England faced 366.7 million appointments in 2021 — 17.5% higher than 2019 in an attempt to clear this backlog. But how many of them genuinely required a GP’s attention? With the importance of GP surgeries in clinical care, the need to adapt and make ‘digital first’ the norm is crucial in this area.
With the problems they face, the demand increasing and the complexities involved, how can digitally-driven patient flow management technology be the answer for GPs to meet the future of primary care?
Why There Is a Need for Patient Flow Management Technology
The backlog GPs are battling is just one challenge. Pressures continue to increase as they need to rush their move to become digital first; the number of GPs in the UK is decreasing while postponed appointments that can now finally take place in person are piling up. Combining these issues adds a lot of pressure.
The demand for surgeries and GPs is growing, with patients complaining about the struggles to get access and GPs admitting there are not enough doctors to keep up. In fact, a motion has passed by 70% for NHS contracts to include workload limits to protect GP staff and patients.
A change is needed to deliver what NHSX promises — driving forward digital transformation in the NHS where staff and patients can benefit from the latest technology and digital systems.
However, demand is only one side of the story. Complexity issues due to people’s ever-changing needs is another challenge to which patient flow technology can be the answer.
Why Patient Flow Technology Is the Future of Change Management in the NHS
Patient flow plays a pivotal role in successfully delivering healthcare. It is the ability to manage patients with minimal delays and with great effectiveness as they move through the specific stages of care.
Using intelligent triage technology, patient flow management technology directs people to the most relevant and optimal resources, so practices can control their ever-increasing demand.
While it is a huge benefit across the board in the NHS from a change management perspective, GP surgeries are best positioned to signpost patients to the most appropriate care for their needs. Why? Because they are family doctors and understand their patients more than anybody.
It benefits everybody. GPs and NHS Trusts can optimise their resource allocation using patient flow technology while patients receive support from the relevant healthcare professionals. Consider the number of queries every GP surgery or NHS Trust receives — healthcare professionals can finally receive real-time support by assessing urgency and then utilise patient flow technology to aid their redirection decisions.
While it means patients can see the most suitable healthcare professionals, it also eases the burden on GPs. It frees up their capacity to see the right patients at the right time. The ones they can help the most and filter through unnecessary appointments and use their resources better.
How Patient Flow Management Technology Helps
Patient flow management technology is designed to offer the best patient flow possible. Part of its purpose is to create more capacity for GPs to focus on who needs their assistance while allowing other team members to work with patients that might not necessarily need a GP.
By using triage data to gain insights into each case’s priority, patient flow management technology allows healthcare professionals to review recommendations while admin teams can continue dealing with their requests and free up valuable time.
Patient queries are answered sooner, too. If the point of contact can resolve problems on the spot, there can be more time to focus on complex patients with minimal delay as they move through their stages of care. It also means patients are less disgruntled.
For GPs and NHS Trusts with a change management focus, patient flow technology can help with job satisfaction and resource allocation. Getting it right in primary care initially will make it easier for patients to receive the best outcomes NHS-wide and create a happier, less intense environment.
Technology like patient flow also helps make the NHS Confederation’s NHS Rest initiative a reality. The project is about rethinking the approach to health and care by using learnings from the pandemic, something described as critical to ‘how the country can recover and reset’.
The benefits would make change management a success in the NHS, as there would be little resistance when the benefits assist everyone, from patients to staff.
Gain More Insights Into Patient Flow and Other Healthcare Technology
The answer does not lie in more beds, longer hospital stays or attempting to rush patients out of hospitals and GP surgeries, only for issues to arise in another area of the system.
Using free flowing data to keep patients safer, GPs and NHS Trusts critical in NHS change management projects need to work towards a future where the patient journey is genuinely focused on the patients.
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