Increasing Patient Access with Microsoft Lync
West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing (a GP federation of 6 practices in West Yorkshire) has adopted a universal communications strategy with Microsoft Lync at the heart, to underpin its vision of a more accessible, inclusive and joined up approach to the delivery of patient care.
West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing adopted innovative new ways of providing care for patients, supported by the Prime Minister’s Challenge fund.
Transforming Patient Services with a Virtual Hub
The West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing service has risen to the challenge to improve patients’ access to primary care with an ambitious, transformational pilot scheme. The plan to create a virtual hub for six GP practices, made possible through new ways of working and integrated digital technology, won £1.4m funding from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund. Patients are already seeing the difference: longer opening hours seven days a week and faster, more direct access that really addresses their needs.
The new service responds to patient feedback: they want to see a GP more easily and more quickly, a flexible care process that fits their situation and real choice in how they interact with healthcare professionals. Accessibility was a key priority for practices, particularly for vulnerable older people, people with mental health needs and those with long-term conditions. At the same time, the scheme tackles the increased pressure and greater workloads faced by GPs.
Number of Users
- Extended patient care hours
- Improved, more collaborative involvement of consultants
- Easier access for patients unable to travel
- Reduced patient care team travel
- Better aligned care team
Better Access to Care
A patient survey identified Ossett Health Village as the most convenient of the six surgeries for extended opening hours in evenings and at weekends. This new virtual healthcare hub is now offering urgent and routine GP appointments from 8am to 8pm during the week and at weekends. Routine appointments are booked through the patient’s GP surgery during normal opening hours while urgent appointments are diverted to the service via the NHS 111 service.
Future improvements planned to accelerate patients’ access to treatment include:
- A care navigator to direct patients to appropriate services such as physiotherapist with no GP appointment
- A secure central portal for patient plans and records, offering direct patient access
- A new pharmacy coordinator to promote integration with community pharmacies and self-care for minor ailments.
- For more complex health and social care needs, a wrap-around service offering more personalised, joined-up care and fewer trips to hospital.
- Video consultations between GPs and patients, care homes and consultants.
Working with Microsoft Lync specialists Modality Systems, the project team is introducing a raft of interlinked patient services: online appointment booking, email and video conference consultations, telephone assessments and follow-ups, text messaging and soon on-line chat with care navigators.
Lync Makes it All Possible
Plans are being developed for unified communications, using Microsoft Lync, to bring together all these systems to provide instant communication between patients and professionals, as well as enhanced collaboration between GPs, pharmacies, healthcare specialists and other service providers such as social services and care homes. Already the group is testing out sharing clinical records and care plans with care home staff and encouraging them to take part in dementia screening and end of life care planning.
The benefits of the way Lync integrates all communication channels and identifies presence and availability are clear: each GP can invite external services in on consultations reactively or on a planned basis. That could mean immediate x-ray/CT/MRI scan expertise, involving a care worker from social services or instantly escalating to hospital treatment.
Critical to the successes so far and for the future has been the collaborative approach. Working closely with NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group and in consultation with practice patient participation groups ensured that it is the needs of the patient that have driven these dramatic changes. Planning and guidance from Modality has ensured that the cultural and technology changes required are enjoying a smooth transition.
West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing have taken an important first step, using unified communication technology to drive a fresh, innovative way of working. The final result will be a truly interactive, patient-driven and pre-emptive local primary health service.