Fancy a chat? One more way your website can increase patient access.


Fancy a chat? One more way your website can increase patient access.

Online live chat is growing in popularity with businesses. If you’ve a problem with your phone, why waste time getting through to BT on your mobile or landline – just opt for ‘live chat’ on the website. Want to ask about a product before purchase? Try live chat. Need customer services? Once again, live chat is a convenient option.

But live chat isn’t just the domain of retailers. It is also a service that is being evaluated by, who see it as giving a useful alternative contact channel for their users.

GP practices can equally benefit, adding chat to the range of ways patients can communicate with them. Which is why at Silicon Practice, we have added ‘Chat’ to the range of services that FootFall can provide.

What are the benefits of Chat?

One GP practice which has been trialling Chat over the last few weeks is the Waterfield Practice in Bracknell.

Waterfield is a practice with 12,500 patients and two sites. Its FootFall website went live in February last year, and has had a huge impact in terms of reducing workload for staff by driving patients towards online services.

So, has Chat helped the team? And has it improved communication with patients?

Gary Hughes, Practice Manager, explained why Waterfield went ahead.

“I really like online chats. Just the other day, I was buying some chairs and wanted to check details of the warranty, so I used an online chat service. In the same way, we felt this type of function could benefit patients.”

Currently, three of the practice team – Gary and two admin staff – are tasked with answering the online live enquiries. So is this proving yet one more thing to do in an already busy day?

“In some ways, Chat goes against the aim of FootFall, which is to free up staff from dealing with on-demand enquiries from patients. But in fact, I don’t think this is an issue. Chat is very easy to turn off and on, and keep an eye on. Although at the moment the three of us are responding to Chat while we are doing office duties, I would envisage that it could be run effectively by reception teams who are also dealing with patients face-to-face and over the phone.”

Has Chat increased communications with patients?

“We gave Chat a very soft launch, and it is getting very little use at the moment, but it is early days. However, we have plans to promote it, which we can do in a number of ways, such as by making it more visible on the website, advertising it on our surgery TV screen, or through social media and in the leaflets we give out with prescriptions.

“Once patients are more familiar with it, I think it will be extremely useful for answering simple queries, such as whether a prescription is ready.”

Tips for making Chat a success

  • Put processes in place so Chat is monitored and responded to quickly when it is switched on
  • Provide training for the team tasked to use it
  • Target promotion towards the patients who are most likely to use it

Finally, as Gary says, go for it!

“While we embraced FootFall from the first, we were a bit cautious about promoting Chat. On reflection, we should have really thrown ourselves into it from day one then it would be really up and running.”

If you could like to chat about Chat for your FootFall site, or talk about Footfall in general, please get in touch with the team here at Silicon Practice.

The growth of GP federations: how getting together online can improve patient services.


The growth of GP federations: how getting together online can improve patient services.

Sharing best practice has always been the bedrock of primary care within the NHS.

Now, with the pressure on resources greater than ever, this approach brings added benefits, because when surgeries come together to share best practice and skills they create economies of scale across a federation.

Below we highlight three examples of how federations can incorporate Federated FootFall to help achieve these goals.

Sharing delivery of neighbourhood/locality services

At Silicon Practice we have seen an increasing number of practices using a federated way of working to continue to provide high quality care in spite of the growth of demand.

This federal approach is highly effective when it comes to the digital world, where sharing is made much simpler by the removal of geographical constraints.

So we have responded by creating and launching a federated version of FootFall, which has been designed specifically to support the movement towards maximising economies of scale and enabling practices to promote and share resources.

Standardising Policies

Typically, individual practices produce their own patient policies required by NHS England.

Federations we are working with are now standardising the practices’ patient policies across the piece. Once these policies are on their Federated FootFall site, changes made in the future will be automatically populated throughout all their individual sites. This shared approach frees practices of the administrative burden of updating these individually.

Standardising the Patient Experience

With care navigation now being seen as critical to ensuring patients get treatment appropriate to their needs, forming a federation can help deliver a consistent experience of care navigation across a neighbourhood. Using a Federated Footfall site greatly enhances this approach, by helping patients get the help they need within their community and by strengthening the work of local groups which can help support patients, carers and families.

Supporting Collaborative Delivery of Extended Services

Services like physiotherapy or community pharmacy can be easily shared and promoted amongst multiple surgeries. A Federated Footfall site is an ideal way to help effective delivery of these extended services because requests, appointments or messages from patients can be directed straight to the provider.

Our first Federated FootFall site is being launched by Lea Valley Health. The High Street Surgery, in Cheshunt, is piloting the approach prior to roll-out to the other seven practices within the locality.

If you are interested in finding out more about Federated FootFall for your area, please get in touch with the team here at Silicon Practice.

The digital zeitgeist: what’s hot for GP Practices.


The digital zeitgeist: what’s hot for GP Practices.

If you’re not immersed in the digital world, or even if you are, it can be hard to fathom which digital trends are worth riding and which are best ignored.

So to give you a steer, at Silicon Practice we’ve looked back at a year’s worth of designing digital solutions, researching the latest government initiatives, combined with visits to practices, federations and locality teams, to pinpoint three main trends that are gaining traction for 2017.


Sharing delivery of neighbourhood/locality services

Some of the most significant work we’ve been involved in 2016, which is escalating this year, is with neighbourhoods and localities. We are seeing neighbourhood teams offering services to the community as a group. Practices are telling us that collectively they are able to offer more services together than they can individually. As a result we are being asked to incorporate shared services into our FootFall product, such as physiotherapist services and community pharmacists.


Social prescribing/signposting

We’re seeing many GP practices finding merit in liaising online with local groups which are able not only to help their patients take control of their health and become more independent, but also help reduce the caseload of Practices.

We’ve already had instances where we have enabled Practices to capitalise on the valuable work they do in the community, and link their activities to these groups. The groups which we have referenced are many and varied, ranging from stop smoking groups and social services, to care services and child health.

Online requests

Only a few years ago, the idea of patients making an appointment, or asking for a repeat prescription online seemed advanced. Now, this tends to be standard practice. Today we have practices allowing patients to make over three dozen different request types online, ranging from tracking a referral to health reviews. More and more Practices are realising the benefits of increasing online access. Equally, patients are coming on-board with this way of contacting their practice, which often saves a visit or phone call to the practice and is available 24/7.

There are other digital innovations on their way – as we all know, the online world is not standing still – but these three relatively new ways of working are reaping rewards and bringing benefits to patients and Practices alike.

If you would like to talk about FootFall or digitalising any of your Practices’ services, please get in touch with the team here at Silicon Practice.

Collaborating online: shared working and back-office efficiencies


Collaborating online: shared working and back-office efficiencies

Last week’s Autumn Statement brought the economy into sharp focus, and although the Chancellor had a few giveaways it’s clear that austerity continues.

So with this background, coupled with the demands of the newly published local STPs, it’s understandable that many practices are looking at ways to save costs.

One route to achieve this is through digital collaboration; teaming up across local practices will bring savings. But there are more benefits than just cost cutting to be achieved. Having a joined up approach across local practices also means:

  • There’s no duplication of effort, so time is saved
  • Patients in the same geographical area are given a consistent message
  • Administrative functions are shared.

But can digital collaboration work – quite literally – in practice?

Can your surgery have a website which is individual to your needs but, at the same time, tie into shared services across your group?

The answer, quite simply, is ‘yes’ and there are different ways of achieving this.

One option is having a shared website. In this scenario, all practices in a locality appear to have their own website, with their own information – such as contact details, opening times and staff profiles. But under the bonnet – which patients and the public don’t see – is actually one website.

The advantage is that much of the common information can be easily shared. Take for example practice policies. Instead of each practice having its own set there is one common set: much less effort to maintain, and it also ensures a common standard for all patients. The same can apply to information on referrals, walk-in centres and a host of other signposting and information issues. So there is less effort for everyone and more consistency across the locality.

If you have a more advanced site, such as FootFall, there are also other opportunities to collaborate. Requests from patients for certain services can be routed to one person to deal with. For these sites, medical reports can be directed to one location taking away the burden from other health professionals within the group and leaving them more time to care. Similarly, the system can support shared service, such as a physiotherapist or community pharmacist, by routing requests directly to the service provider.

In short, digital collaboration is a practical and effective way to meet the needs of your STP and also the constraints within which the health sector is operating.

To talk to us about digital collaboration, please contact the team here at Silicon Practice.

Social Prescribing


Social Prescribing

Social prescribing is more than just a buzz phrase. With around a fifth of GPs’ time being spent dealing with patients’ social problems – such as social isolation, housing, work, relationships and unemployment – social prescribing is going on within practices, whether or not it is their formal policy.

Back in 2013, research by the innovation charity Nesta and the Innovation Unit suggested GPs across the country were increasingly keen on the “more than medicine” approach of social prescribing, and in the last three years this interest has escalated. At Silicon Practice, we are often asked by our customers how FootFall or a GP website can help support practices to support social prescribing.

So in this month’s newsletter we explain the techniques that we offer which help GP practices to link patients with activities and groups in the community; activities and groups which will support their health and wellbeing and, ultimately, relieve pressure on GP Practices.

How Silicon Practice can help Practices implement their social prescribing policies

We can help practices with their social prescribing by supporting the practice policies on the website. Social prescribing policies are often implemented through signposting, self referrals and GP referrals. Our websites and FootFall sites can support all three approaches, and can structure the information in a way that is easy for patients to follow. This can become a useful resource for the practice staff too, lending clarity and definition to social prescribing in the practice.

Signposting: This is an information only service, where patients are made aware of services in the community. We can organise this into a directory, and make is searchable, and organise the information into easy to digest bite-sized chunks, with links to websites with further information.

Self-referral: Similar to signposting but can be used, for example, to arrange a face-to-face meeting. We can also include criteria so the patient can check that they are eligible for self-referral.

Practice Referral: We can include information on the services available, the criteria for referral, and who to contact for more information on referrals. We can also include online request forms to enable the patient to ask for a referral. The completed form is then forwarded by the system to the practice. For FootFall customers we can also forward the form to non-practice staff, such as to an outreach centre in the community.

This approach supports the current shift towards a “digital first” strategy, encouraging people to help themselves, rather than needing to ask someone where they can find the information they need. By providing information digitally we can speed up the process for both the patient and GP Surgery.

Just by adding this information onto your site, you can strengthen new partnerships with other organisations which can help relieve the pressure on the practice. An approach to social prescribing to help your patients and your practice.

If you would like help with adding the information to your site, please get in touch with the team here at Silicon Practice.