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FOI request finds 75% of Trusts have no strategy to reduce outpatient waiting times

The latest research from patient journey management expert Qmatic has revealed that a significant majority of NHS Trusts are failing to implement a comprehensive outpatient journey management strategy, and monitor outpatient waiting times. The data has emerged following a Freedom of Information request sent to 80 NHS Foundation Trusts to gather information on the strategies and technologies that these organisations have implemented to reduce waiting times, welcome and guide patients through healthcare facilities, and how they are measuring the success of these deployments.


Key findings include:

* Just 25% of respondents have a strategy in place to reduce outpatient waiting times

* 32% of respondents provided data on their waiting times, with the majority reporting that they aimed to see outpatients within 30 minutes

* The vast majority of NHS Trusts are not monitoring their performance against those targets, with just 12% reporting their success in meeting targets

* There is currently low adoption of patient journey management technology, with just 21% of Trusts using self-service kiosks, and 14% using queue management displays.


 Analysing the findings, Vanessa Walmsley, Managing Director of Qmatic, comments: “We all know that attending an appointment at the hospital can be a stressful experience. The last thing that patients want is a confusing experience to the right place, followed by a long wait to be seen by the appropriate clinician. We have seen from our research that not only do most NHS Trusts not have an effective strategy in place to ensure that people attending outpatient appointments have as short a wait as possible, many do not even monitor how long people are waiting for outpatient appointments.


“While we found that 32% of Trusts reported having waiting time targets, which is the first step towards developing a strategy to reduce outpatient waiting times, just 12% of Trusts were able to report their success in meeting these targets. The NHS is under significant budgetary pressure but it has a responsibility to its patients to provide the best possible healthcare including the overall patient experience, and this starts with developing a strategy to manage the patient journey.


“An effective patient journey management strategy starts before the patient has even reached the hospital. NHS Trusts should look to integrate technology into their appointment scheduling, allowing patients to book appointments online, delivering reminders to patients via SMS and enabling them to cancel appointments online, to reduce the incidence and impact of missed appointments. On arrival, patients should have the option to check in to the hospital in the way they find easiest, whether that is using a smart phone check in system, a self-serve kiosk or a manned reception desk to notify staff of their arrival. They should also have the option to leave feedback on their experience after their visit, via their mobile device, which can then be analysed by the hospital.”


Walmsley concludes: “Healthcare authorities must also consider that patients may have to visit multiple reception areas during a single appointment and make this experience of transitioning from one to another as seamless as possible. A seamless patient journey can make a huge contribution to the comfort which patients experience when they arrive at a hospital, potentially improving outcomes and reducing stress.”


Click here to download the full FoI report - ‘Optimising the Outpatient Experience’.