One question that we are often asked is “how can we promote patient requests online?”. So, in this month’s issue we’ve brought together 10 ways that you can encourage patients to do more online and “nudge” patients away from expensive and time-consuming physical channels, e.g. visits to the Practice and the telephone.
We have chosen these examples as they identify and remove some of the barriers to the take-up of online services. Many of our examples have been designed by our customers and all have been shown to be proven ways that Practices can generate a higher take-up of online services.
- When registering new patients why not register them for your online services at the same time? Patients already have their ID so this is an ideal time to register them for the online services whilst they have the documentation to hand. This will save patients an additional visit to the surgery.
- Avoid giving out the direct domain name to your clinical system’s online service. Rather, place a link to the online services on your website and give out only your website address. In this way patients will also see other important messages on your website.
- Use creative ways to gain the data you need about patients. If you are among some of the Practices like the surgeries in St Albans; Midway Surgery, Grange Street and The Maltings who are now offering free wifi to patients, you can link your wifi to a sign up form on your website to gain up-to-date patient information. (Thank you to Stuart Daw, IT Manager for this idea).
- Change your recorded message on your phone system to promote your online services. This will give patients an alternative way of contacting the practice.
- Train receptionists to help patients to find answers to their questions online. For example guide patients to the website to help them solve problems themselves. An example of this can be seen at Chapel Row Surgery where patients can be helped through the process of obtaining a sick note.
- Put phone numbers in less prominent places on your website and use the website header to promote your online services. For an example see Uppingham Surgery.
- Highlight the benefits of going online at every opportunity. Involve your patient group for user testing.
- Check that your online services acknowledge successfully completed applications and allows progress to be tracked online.
- Measure your success. Gather statistics on the use of online requests versus physical requests. For example, you can collect the number of new patient registrations completed on a paper form as well as those completed online.
- Make sure that all staff are familiar with your online services by giving demonstrations and help. Consider training all the members in your team at a time that fits in with their timetable so that everyone is able to encourage patients to go online. Thanks to Gary Hughes at Waterfield Practice for this tip.
Setting realistic targets for moving patients from physical channels such as the phone and visits to the practice to online channels can be difficult, but you can start the process by gathering demographic information about your user base. A good source of information to find out the percentages of people who are online and offline in each demographic is gov.uk digital landscape research. Adding this to your knowledge of online proficiency of people in your local area will allow you to come up with some realistic targets.