- Apprenticeships – the next best thing?
With the daunting question of “what next?” looming over A Level students, the question stands as to whether apprenticeships are a viable alternative for current students in comparison to university, as well as companies eager to expand their workforce. Apprenticeships have now evolved exponentially alongside the attitude towards them, and they are now being seen as a replacement of conventional higher education.
At one stage an apprenticeship existed purely for the trades – plumbing, roofing, etc, however the development of schemes within companies has allowed the market to be opened for a lot more opportunities. At Silicon Practice this year we have fully embraced this opportunity and strongly believe in the benefits of on-the-job learning to better your future. After speaking with our Operations Director Jane Oddy, she has provided some insight into how we feel on the subject:
“We are growing our business and have decided that we need to have a mix of experienced professionals and also inexperienced people who we can develop and immerse into our ethos.
There are a number of business benefits in selecting an apprenticeship programme, but the key advantage to Silicon Practice is that it is helping us to improve the breadth of skills we have in our company. We are finding that coaching new people is encouraging us to look at the way we do things which has led to us making improvements in our processes and way we work as a team. The apprentices we have selected are eager to learn, their commitment is second to none and their work has been outstanding.”
We have now recruited two apprentices in our company. Erin is our Business Administration Apprentice and is receiving mentoring from our Office Manager Charlotte. Charlotte is extremely positive about our apprenticeship scheme, stating:
“My experience so far with having a Business Administration Apprentice has been nothing but positive. I think that apprenticeship courses are an excellent way of gaining skills, knowledge, and learning whilst gaining relevant workplace experience. Erin is enthusiastic, hands-on, and has already made a huge contribution to the team. By employing an apprentice, we have been able to provide training that is appropriate and relevant to our company and our future plans.”
We are also lucky to have Nathan our Apprentices DevOps Engineer on board, too! Nathan enjoys working to consolidate his learning instead of a more structured academic environment, praising the combination of pre-college work and job training.
“You get a feel for the job alongside learning, which helps in understanding the career you have chosen. Also, for me, I enjoy working too much so learning and being able to earn at the same time is very beneficial in my position.”
Whether you are looking for on the job experience, or as a company want to encourage young people to get involved in your business, apprenticeships are an exciting alternative that will be an asset going forward for everyone involved.
- How Footfall fits into surgery life
With practices already busy dealing with patient requests and the everyday workload, we are often asked how FootFall fits in. How effective is it at freeing up precious resources? This month’s story is an interview with Ali Sayers an Administrator at Strawberry Hill Medical Centre on how FootFall impacts her day.
An Interview with Strawberry Hill Medical Centre
In April last year, Strawberry Hill was born from the merger of two Practices in Newbury who moved into new premises and became Strawberry Hill Medical Centre, catering for 21,500 patients.
On moving day itself, the new practice also switched across to using a FootFall website. Ali admits doing everything in one go was daunting but successful, and the assistance provided by the FootFall website has been an invaluable addition to the new practice.
“We do not do things by halves,” said Ali. “We decided that moving across to FootFall at the same time would work, and it did. We went with a FootFall site, because Silicon Practice already provided a website for one of the practices which came into the merger, and we were impressed by what FootFall could potentially offer.”
Ali is responsible for looking after patient requests that come via FootFall, which can number anything from a handful a day or 20 to 30 that arrive overnight.
But dealing with them is a speedy and simple process, and fits easily into Ali’s workload. Ali applies the same methodology that would be applied to a phone call: it is dealt with or referred onwards.
“I check FootFall first thing in the morning and then at intervals throughout the day,” said Ali. “Processing the enquiries that come in is straightforward. Probably about 70 per cent need to be referred up to a doctor and around 30 per cent I can deal with, and this doesn’t include the requests for repeat prescriptions which are dealt with by a colleague.
“The doctors say that they can process three or four FootFall enquiries in the time it takes to see a patient, so as well as channelling enquiries away from them, those that they deal with can be done quickly.”
The enquiries that need a doctor’s attention are forwarded on by Ali, via the practice’s internal clinical system.
When patients put an enquiry through, they receive an automated reply telling them they will receive a response within a set time frame. In practice, Ali is able to deal with most enquiries within the day. Indeed, sometimes she responds within minutes.
Patients say they appreciate the convenience of the service, which they can access at any time, and also the speed of the responses.
Ali said: “Our doctors are very good at mentioning the FootFall service to patients as a way of promoting it to them. Those who are already using it are extremely positive and tell the doctors they like it.”
So does Ali have any advice for fellow professionals who are launching, or considering launching, a FootFall website?
“We really love having FootFall, as you can tell. I’d just suggest people make the most of it and remember it can evolve,” she said. “Since we introduced FootFall we’ve added on asthma review forms, alcohol screening and smoking screening. This all saves us time and the patients appreciate not having to come into the surgery unnecessarily.
“Here in Newbury, we have a centralised maternity hub, which all pregnancies are referred to. So pregnant women can refer themselves via FootFall, to be contacted by a midwife. So, when you’re pregnant, you no longer need to visit the doctor first!”If you would like more information about FootFall and the results that it is achieving for other Practices, please contact the team at Silicon Practice.
- Flu Vaccinations: Tips to help boost your service this season
As flu vaccine targets have been increased for this year, now is a good time to promote your flu vaccination clinics. This has added impetus as there is now additional competition from other flu vaccine providers. To help you run a successful flu campaign online we’ve pulled together the following 7 tips which we hope will give you some ideas and inspiration when planning your online promotion.
If you would like some help on promoting your flu campaigns on your website, please contact the team at Silicon Practice.
- Sending text messages
Using text messaging that includes a link to flu vaccine information on your website is becoming an increasingly popular way of getting a good response from patients. For instance, The Quarter Jack Surgery have sent out a text to their patients with a link to a flu form on their website inviting patients to book their flu appointment online. A similar approach has been adopted by Flitwick Surgery.
- Twitter campaign
Many younger patients who fall into the clinical risk groups will engage with social media. If you are using social media as part of your online promotion, consider using popular culture references to engage different groups. An example is the above picture which references Game of Thrones.
- Promote positive aspects of your service
Publicise the fact that your service is free. If you are also promoting health checks and advice that other providers don’t supply, put this in your message. Try to avoid negative text about other providers, and instead positively explain the benefits of the service that your Practice provides.
- Publicise FAQ’s and myth-busters
To encourage take up, directly address some of the myths surrounding flu vaccinations. There are many examples online that you can utilise, such as NHS Choices.
- Use pictures and videos
Incorporating pictures and videos in your messages will grab people’s attention, particularly if you are using Facebook and Twitter.
- Combine flu jab sessions with other events
If you are planning to combine flu jab sessions with other events, such as talks or coffee mornings, publish this on your website. Use your Patient Group to help involve people and create news on your website or Twitter feed.
- Staff training
Create a buzz internally and train your staff about your flu campaign so that any staff member can immediately answer patients’ questions. You can get help with your internal communication campaign from resources such as NHS Flu Fighter and get ideas such as videos that you can put on your website from the 2016 flu fighter award winners.
- Sending text messages
- Low-down on Logos
At Silicon Practice we’re often asked about logo design, so we have put together some tips to help you come up with a logo which looks as good on your signage and stationery as it does on your website and social media.
Our hints and tips
- Be clear on why you need a logo
Most organisations and businesses use a logo to communicate instantly what their business stands for and to differentiate themselves from the competition.In an NHS environment, where most patients go to their designated GP, competition with other practices isn’t normally the issue. In this setting, a logo’s purpose is usually to create a good first impression and deliver the message that you are a professional and trusted organisation. As a first step, talk to your team about the purpose of the logo. This will provide valuable information that will help drive the design process.
- Select your design
Logo designs come in many forms. Most modern logos use merely the name of their organisation in a special font with no graphic. Just think of Coca-Cola, NHS, Sainsbury’s, eBay, YouTube and Skype. Nike does have a graphic, its famous swoosh, but this is so memorable and simple that even when you see it without the wording you know what it represents.
- Keep it simple
The example of Nike brings us to the next point about the importance of simplicity. If you do intend to use a graphic, don’t try to tell a story in your logo. Remember your logo needs to work on all mediums so it’s best to keep the number of shapes, lines and other design elements to a minimum to make the logo as distinct and clear as possible.
Keeping your logo simple will help ensure it is scalable. For example, a logo should work on something the size of a postage stamp and on something as large as exterior signage.In this day and age more people are likely to see your logo online rather than on signage and correspondence. This means that it needs to shrink to perhaps no more than 100 pixels high. This is why major brands stick to their name as their logo, using a special font, to ensure it is digital media-friendly.
If you layer your Practice’s name on top or around the icon in your logo, then your Practice’s name can be harder to read. And if you have text such as a strapline within the icon, it will be harder to see the icon, much less grasp what it means. Separating these two elements from one another will make them both easier to read and understand.
- Does that come in red?
Colour is important. Use a colour that will evoke the right feelings and mood among those who see it. If a logo requires colour or special effects to make it a strong logo, then the chances are it’s not up to scratch.Modern designs tend to use simple colour palettes with one or maybe two colours. This is because the simple colour palettes actually create the sense of “more” colour. This reductionist method of design gives each individual colour the space to shine. Think of Asda, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose.View your chosen design in black and white first and add colour later. This allows you to focus on the shape and concept rather than the special effects. Avoid using shading on a logo. It looks dated and it doesn’t photocopy well.
We hope our hints and tips give you some useful ideas to start your logo design process.
To summarise you’ll find that you can spend a lot of time designing a graphic when in fact a good logo is often represented by special font.
And just one more mention of that iconic Nike swoosh. It was designed in 1971 by a student, who was paid $35. Founder Phil Knight said “I don’t love it, but it will grow on me”!
To chat further about logo design, or website design in general, please get in touch with the team atSilicon Practice.
- Be clear on why you need a logo
- Coming Soon! How to build excitement around your new website or new services
Comparing the world of GP websites and the movie industry may be a stretch of the imagination, but believe it or not there are lessons to be drawn.
When the first trailer for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace came out in 1998 it could only be seen by cinema-goers, shown on screen before they settled down to the main movie.
By the time the second trailer was released, Lucasfilm had teamed up with Apple to release it on Quicktime. That trailer became the biggest download event at the time, with 6.4 million downloads over three weeks. And, as we all know, Phantom Menace went on to become a box office phenomenon which kick started the new Star Wars series, fuelled in part by the anticipation that was built around it.
So what does this have to do with primary care?
We believe this idea of harnessing the power of online messages to create “teasers” for the main event is one that many organisations – GP practices included – can make use of.
The “coming soon” pages on your website, if used correctly, can make your audiences keen to find out about new services, such as physio services, new opening times or new staff who may be joining you with specialisms.
So here are our tips on making the most of your “coming soon” pages:
- Fortunately, just putting the words “coming soon” or “under construction” is largely a thing of the past. Instead, use the power of the web to give really positive messages. Use a few sentences by way of introduction. But keep it short – don’t give everything away all at once, otherwise there is no reason for patients to visit for the “big reveal”.
- Keep the “teaser” going. Add some more information a little at a time. That way you’ll help to build anticipation. It’s a tactic used to great effect by advertisers – you just need to take a leaf out of their book.
- If you use social media add a hashtag. Hashtags make people feel included, and in the know, and give your visitors the impression that people are talking about your new service.
- Finally, why not be even more proactive? You can use the coming soon pages to engage visitors. For example, you could issue an invitation to your patient group to help test your new website (if you’re having one).
“Coming soon” messages need not be the dull affairs that they once were. Go online to make an effective “trailer” for your new website or services. You may not be about to release Jurassic World but you can certainly avoid being a dinosaur about the potential of a “coming soon” page.
For more tips on making the most of your website, please get in touch with the team at Silicon Practice.
- Online self-help: encouraging patient take-up
In last month’s newsletter we reported on the demand audit carried out by Hertfordshire-based Lea Valley Health. The exercise threw up some interesting findings, and just one which stuck out was how little patients were using online self-help or advice prior to making an appointment. Of those surveyed, just 2% used the surgery website to ‘self-help’ and a further 19% used other services, such as NHS 111.
It’s clear that the default position for 79% of patients surveyed was to go straight to the doctor. And it seems likely that this is reflected at practices across the country.
So how do you encourage patients to seek help first? Given how stretched practices are, the more you can pre-empt the tendency to go straight to the GP – without, of course, putting patients at risk – the better.
Five practical tips
This month, we will look five measures practices can take to guide patients towards trusted self-help before they make a phone call to the practice or make an appointment.
- Be succinct. Home in on just a few issues at any one time – subjects that are relevant to your patients, the things that they are phoning about. Avoid the temptation of putting in an exhaustive list of everything you can think of and creating a long-winded and off-putting A-Z of self-help.
- Be topical. Highlight features that are current to the time of year such as hay fever or travel in the summer; colds and flu in the winter. Taking the time to keep a content calendar can pay dividends.
- Concentrate on giving advice, write text that addresses your patients’ issues and make your copy clear and simple. People have a very limited attention span when reading online, so text that gets to the point and solves their issue, or gives them direction, will be the most effective.
- Structure the copy so it gives clear instructions. Focus on what the patient can do now, when they should seek medical help, and where can they go for advice. The move to mobile – with so many people accessing websites via smart phone or tablet – has only strengthened the argument for writing short, direct instructions.
- Measure the results. As a simple starting point, look at the analytics on your website to see what impact the content is having. You’ll soon know what does and doesn’t work and you can adjust your text where necessary.
These five simple steps taken together should not only increase the use of your website, but encourage patients to take a self-help route first.
And finally, educate your patients about the features of your website and how it can help them get their answers more quickly. Don’t make the website your practice’s best kept secret!
- Survey shows many appointments unnecessary
We know primary healthcare is under pressure. And we also know, at least anecdotally, that GPs are seeing patients who could have been assisted in other ways, perhaps by a pharmacist or a nurse. But how does a practice prove that some appointments are unnecessary, and by what proportion?
Lea Valley Health Federation Proves the Case
One federation comprising eight practices – Lea Valley Health, in Hertfordshire – did just this by conducting a demand audit among patients visiting not just the practices, but the minor injury units and community pharmacies within its area.
The startling results have paved the way for a restructure of primary care in the locality, to improve efficiency, save costs and – most importantly – improve patient care.
And a major part in this redesign is being played by the FootFall websites, commissioned by the federation and now being rolled out across the practices.
Richard Moore is the business manager of Lea Valley Health, which serves a population of 75,500.
“We knew that many appointments were being taken up by patients who didn’t really need to be seen by a doctor. Our clinical lead in the locality could see that the demand was greater than reflected in our funding, but we wanted to demonstrate the extent of this.”
The survey had a fantastic uptake – some 10,000 responses capturing the clinicians’ and patients’ views; 76% of those asked agreed to take part.
Crucially the results revealed that nearly a quarter – 24% – of all GP consultations could be managed by a suitable appropriate pathway, one of which would be the FootFall websites.
The survey also revealed 79% of patients did not seek self-help or advice for their condition, and of those only 2% did so using the surgery website – another argument for bringing in FootFall, to encourage patients to help themselves, and so take pressure off GPs.
One surprising results was the split of reception time: 50:50 between appointment-related demand and non-appointment related demand. Demand here can be alleviated by encouraging patients to self-help, again through the introduction of FootFall.
Richard said: “The results were what we needed to make the necessary changes. Our federation was set up in 2014, but until recently we hadn’t gone very far in terms of working together and sharing best practice. The results of the survey have really been the catalyst for us to make changes, which include the introduction of FootFall.”
The challenge now for Lea Valley Health is to encourage patients to use FootFall.
Said Richard: “We need to educate patients, otherwise we won’t see the benefits. To help with this, we applied for funding from the Eastern Academic Health Science Network, and we needed the evidence of the survey to back our application. We were given funding for a one-year post for a locality engagement officer, who has now started and whose task is to promote FootFall use among patients.”
It is too early to ascertain how much difference FootFall is making. But Richard plans to measure the success of all the changes in a year’s time, and prove that innovations like FootFall can improve services for patients and take pressure off practices.
Richard will be speaking at the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC GP & Practice Managers Conference on this topic on Thursday 11 May. Silicon Practice will be holding a FootFall workshop at the same conference. If you are attending this event, we look forward to seeing you.
For more information about FootFall, please get in touch with the team here at Silicon Practice.
- 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 .gov.uk, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
- Your services are online – so how do you persuade patients to use them?
Despite the fact that most patients expect to make appointments and much more via their clinical system’s online services, only a small percentage of patients do so. This is in spite of the effort and drive by Practices to promote digital access.
In this month’s issue we will look at ways that practices can encourage patients to make the switch from phoning or visiting the practice to doing more online via their clinical system.
What can practices do to encourage patients to make the switch?
Barriers to use
The usual scenario to allow patients access to the clinical system’s online services is that patients are asked to come into the Practice with proof of ID in order to register. Because the clinical system has the capability of allowing patients to access their medical records, care must be taken to ensure that the patient asking for access to the online services is who they say they are. Hence the stringent rules about presenting ID.
However, imagine not being able to book a flight online, or buy a book from Amazon, or order your shopping from a supermarket unless you first visited a store to identify yourself? If a personal visit was required, it’s a certainty that the use of online services would be much, much lower. So it’s not surprising that take-up by patients is low.
How to get around the barrier
To overcome this barrier, some practices are now offering patients access to just their appointment booking service without the need to see ID. For most patients this is the service that they want to access the most. Using this approach the patient can’t access their medical records or order repeat prescriptions. But the big advantage is that they can register to access the online appointment service without having to visit the practice first.
Registering can be done through a simple online form, and the patient is sent their login details. To see an example of this visit Marlow Medical Centre.
When the patient comes in for their appointment, the practice can verify their ID and allow the patient full access to other services, such as their medical report and repeat prescriptions.
How the patient benefits
There is a benefit to the patient to register as they can start to use the clinical systems’ online service. It also introduces them to the benefits and scope of these service.
The patient doesn’t need to make an additional visit to the surgery just to prove ID. This can be done when they next have their appointment.
How the Practice benefits
The Practice will notice a rise in the number of patients registering for the clinical systems’ online services which will help them meet their targets for the number of patients registered to use the clinical systems’ online services.
Just by making this small change, patients will start to go online. They’ll be tempted with the carrot of easy-to-use online appointment booking with no need for ID verification, and they’ll love the convenience of using the online service. When they are next in the Practice they can have their ID checked and be given full access.
If you would like help with the information on your website like Marlow Medical Centre to explain how patients can access your appointment booking system without the need for ID verification, please get in touch with the team here at Silicon Practice.
- Your Practice website is like an Olympian – and data analytics will help it win gold
We can all bask a little in the glory of Team GB’s Olympic success; men and women whose athleticism has brought the nation’s best-ever medal haul.
But it’s not just training and coaching which have helped them to succeed. Technology – in particular, data analytics – has played a huge part. Data analysis of her opponents helped Nicola Adams punch her way to victory in the flyweight boxing; with bikes potentially as advanced as they can be, it’s data which partly powered the GB cycling team.
In the same way, measuring your Practice website’s effectiveness by analysing data, and responding to this information, is vital if it is to perform at its best.
How’s your practice website performing?
Here are five areas where your website’s analytics can tell you a lot about the performance and contribution your site is making to your Practice.
1. How many visitors does your site attract?
People are always mentioning site visits or ‘hits’, but why? Well, if you think of your website as a shop, those visitors represent the numbers who are coming in your door. A visit refers to one individual who arrives at your website and proceeds to browse, no matter how many times they come back.
As a ball park figure, you should be getting around one third of your patient population visiting your site every month.
Tip: To increase your visitor numbers and therefore the impact of your website, rather than give patients the direct web address of your clinical system, give them the practice website address and put a link to the clinical link on your website. This then takes the patient to your website where they see your latest information.
Once you are used to tracking the number of visitors you can break this down into those who visit just once and those who are regulars. Having return visitors is good news – it means they liked what they saw and wanted to come back.
2. Top ten pages
It’s important to know which of your pages are the most visited and compare this to the pages you’d most like to be visited – are they the same?
Tip: If your appointments page is the most visited page this tells you that your visitors are looking at your site with the ultimate goal of making an appointment. But if you would prefer patients to look at self-help options before making an appointment, analyse the information that you are giving on self-help and see if this can be improved.
3. Exit pages
The exit page refers to the last page viewed by visitors to your site. This metric can tell you what the visitor was actually looking for and can be used to optimise your site.
Tip: If your most common exit page is your appointments page this could indicate that visitors aren’t looking at the other options available to them. Consider redistributing workload away from the practice and connecting your visitors to other organisations such as self-help groups and pharmacies.
4. Time spent on your site
The time people spend on your website is a clear indication of how they feel about it. If users are abandoning your site without spending enough time to look at it, then something is wrong that needs to be fixed. Your goal is to make users stay long enough to see what you have to offer, together with alternatives.
5. Smartphone and tablet use
Finally, as we’ve mentioned before, the rapid rise of smartphone and tablet use means your mobile-friendly site has to always be factored in. Google Analytics is a useful tool to use to tell you the percentage of your visitors who arrive via a tablet or mobile. Our analysis shows that 60% of visits to practice websites are from mobiles and tablets. This follows the national trend. So if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, your statistics will be an indication that it’s time to convert your site.
All this can be a little daunting, but our advice is to start small. Pick one metric and try to improve it. As you get comfortable you can expand the metrics you track.
If you’re looking to get started on examining your website metrics, please do call your website editor who can set you up with a Google Analytics account. They can also talk you through the process and send you a document to help you get started.
- Online access for disabled people: the latest update
With the Olympic Games and, more significantly for this newsletter, the Paralympics about to start, the issue of accessibility for all is very much at the forefront of people’s minds.
Everyone needs accessible information, however significant numbers of people with health conditions or impairments find it difficult to read the ‘average’ information available. Now more than ever there is an increasing emphasis on providing information that ensures everyone is included.
This is certainly true with the NHS and adult social care sector, and you are probably aware of the new Accessible Information Standard which is being introduced this year. This standard is designed to ensure disabled people are provided with information in a format they can understand and receive appropriate support to help them communicate.
All organisations providing NHS or adult social care must follow the Accessible Information Standard by law. The standard’s introduction has been a phased process, but from July 31 (Sunday) it must be fully implemented.
The Accessible Information Standard and your practice website
At Silicon Practice, we have been taking a number of calls about the Accessible Information Standard and how it relates to practice websites.
The short answer is, practice websites are not impacted by the standard, because they are beyond its scope.
However, practice websites are affected by NHS guidelines, which require that websites are accessible to all.
And as we cater solely for the health sector we are committed to ensuring everyone can access websites designed by Silicon Practice. This includes people with sight problems and cognitive impairments, as well as users with older browsers and those who have newer technologies, such as smartphones and tablets.
Our websites are designed to adhere to all current accessibility standards and, in particular, to meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.00), the recommended standard required within the NHS Website Guidelines. It’s simply good practice!
Technology to improve accessibility is developing all the time, and we ensure we are on trend. For example, the latest way that accessibility to websites is handled is within the users’ browser rather than directly on the website. In other words, the user sets their browser to accommodate their particular needs – whether that is visual, auditory, physical, cognitive, or neurological. Once set, the browser will then display all websites the same way. One simple change, for one significant result.
So how can my practice improve online accessibility?
There are some simple steps that practices can take to support people with impairments.
For example, the BMA suggests practices encourage new patients to inform staff about their particular communication needs in relation to disability, visual impairments or sensory lost. They suggest that this question could be included on the New Patient Registration form.
We can easily amend your online New Patient Registration form to include pertinent questions about communication and disability – please just drop your web editor a line and we’ll happily do this for you.
There are many other tips and ideas in the BMA Guidelines on Accessible Information. We would be more than happy to chat with you about ways to make your online presence more user-friendly for people with disabilities. Please do get in touch.
In the meantime, enjoy the Olympics and the Paralympics – a true testament to what people can achieve and what difficulties can be overcome.
- Seniors and the internet: chalk and cheese or a match made in heaven?
A question we are often asked relates to seniors and their use of the internet. Our clients quite reasonably want to know if FootFall is relevant to the demographic they are supporting. In other words, if a large percentage of their community is over 65, will their Practice website or our new product, FootFall, be of use to, and used by, them?
It’s a fair question and one into which we have carried out some research. We have all heard of silver surfers, of course, but what proportion of the older population fall into this category?
Our findings have been highly revealing and, we hope, reassuring. Because while it’s true that some seniors are reluctant to use the web, many have begun to embrace it and this trend is accelerating.
Our research into internet use by seniors
Now FootFall has been operating at many GP surgeries nationwide for several months, we have been able to analyse the usage of online requests across different age groups.
We have found:
- 20 per cent of all online requests come from the over 65s.
- Many people in their nineties use the web to ask their doctor or surgery a question in preference to making an appointment or phoning the practice.
- Two different groups of seniors are emerging: younger seniors, aged 65-75, are familiar with the web and have a positive view towards its benefits. Those over 75, often with significant challenges with health or disability, are less active online.
Why are more seniors now online?
As with anything, there’s no one answer but circumstances have come together to make online use for seniors both easier and the preferred option. The Government Digital First Strategy has driven central and local government to put services online, such as renewing car licences, or checking refuse collection days. Many people enjoy this faster, easier access to public services. Indeed, if they choose the traditional route – the phone – delays may be lengthy and the menu options daunting.
The introduction of tablets and their usability, has been popular with seniors, who prefer them to a laptop or desktop.
Web accessibility standards have improved, benefiting those with visual and fine motor skill impairment, the majority of whom are seniors.
The increase in use of social media by seniors to stay connected with family and friends and a rise in the number of courses and assistance available to encourage people to go online (such as those run by libraries and charities) have encouraged take up.
Finally, people now reaching ‘senior’ status are those who, while they may not have grown up with the internet, are very familiar with it.
Why do seniors access GPs via online requests?
- Convenience – online is truly 24/7, with no need to travel or wait in a phone queue.
- No time constraints – people can take as long as they need to complete forms.
- There are benefits for those who find using the phone a challenge, such as the hard of hearing.
- As more people go online, those who won’t or can’t do so then benefit from released telephone capacity.
For many, the web still seems to be the new kid on the block but it is, in fact, 25-years-old. While seniors may have been a little late to the party, they have now arrived and are ready to get stuck in. And it is a fair assumption that this increasingly IT savvy older generation are only going to increase their web use – and that includes accessing practices online.
To find out how other Practices are using FootFall to help them meet patient demands across all demographics, please contact Jane Oddy on 01793 710500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- How to use your website to attract the “right” candidates
In a climate where there is huge competition to attract the best talent, many of our customers are now promoting Practice vacancies on their websites. So how do you leverage the power of your website to recruit the right talent? While Silicon Practice doesn’t specialise in recruitment, we’ve harnessed our experience in website content and web design and taken inspiration from our clients to produce a list of 10 ideas for you to try. Here’s how you can show potential job seekers why they should work at your Practice and how you can keep them interested enough to apply for your vacancy.
1. Your website – branding.
A website is the first and most important step to the hiring process. This is the first impression your company will make on job seekers. Put yourselves in the position of the candidate. What message does your website send out? Is it professional? Is it modern? Will it appeal to the type of people you want to recruit?
2. Highlight your successes.
The best candidates seek out highly reputable organisations that are leaders in their sector and are embarking on compelling projects or developments. For examples of how other practices have highlighted this aspect of their work take a look at Attenborough Surgery’s recent NHS Innovation Award and Wokingham Medical Centre’s awards for their new building.
3. Has your surgery been rated as outstanding by CQC?
Ensure your CQC success is clearly evident. Take a look at College Surgery to see how this can be achieved.
4. Highlight the benefits of working at your Practice.
Candidates also look for benefits beyond salary, such as flexible work arrangements, a healthy work/life balance and opportunity for growth. If your organisation prioritises these benefits, consider highlighting them in your job posts.
5. Ask for Feedback.
Once they have applied for a position, find out from candidates what they thought of your job careers page. You can then use this feedback to refine your recruitment process.
6. Put your employees to work as recruiters.
Employees’ personal networks can be an excellent source of talent with the advantage that some of the initial screening has already been done for you.
7. To save phone calls to your Practice
Don’t forget to put on all the details about your vacancy on your website, such as the advertisement, person specification, job description, contact details and closing date, together with an application form.
8. Put your visitors to work as recruiters.
Encourage visitors to send job descriptions to their friends/co-workers. You can set up an “e-mail this page” or “e-mail to a friend” form to facilitate the process. By tapping into a site visitor’s referral network, you can effectively identify pre-screened applicants at no sourcing cost.
9. Experiment with “out-of-the-box” ideas.
Instead of the typical job posting, consider writing your advertisements to reflect the way that you feel about your team. The informal format might attract a different type of candidate. Take a look at Nelson Medical Practice as an example.
10. Job seekers will also be looking at social media sites.
Consider putting your job advertisement on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This approach will help to promote your vacancy to a larger group of candidates. It will also appeal to younger candidates who are technically savvy and will offer the opportunity for job seekers to learn more about your Practice.
We are experiencing an era where job seekers are better skilled at searching, sourcing, researching, networking and less afraid to reach out to people they have never met before. When you’re ready to advertise your next vacancy, give your web editor a call to discuss the options. They’ll be very happy to help you.
- Four Practices Driving a Change in Patient Communication
The Rutland Medical Group (RMG) GP Federation is a federation of four practices: Uppingham Surgery, Oakham Medical Centre, Empingham Medical Centre, and Market Overton and Somerby Surgery.
The RMG needed their group identity to be widely known but locally connected; a striking brand that had ability to create individual identities represented by different Practices. An important part of the success of this solution was to create a way that patients could interact with the Practice online to achieve greater efficiencies for the Practice and allow patients to get answers to their questions without the need to phone or come into the Practice.
Simon Dobb, Practice Manager of Uppingham Surgery
“Silicon Practice’s solution was great – we’re very pleased with it! All four federation members’ websites share the same fresh, contemporary design in terms of layout and visual structure, but each has its own photos, branded colour scheme and logo. This way we’re all visually connected at the same time as retaining individuality. Also each website has its own services and online processes.
“I’m delighted with the result. I like the design: it’s clean and fresh. It’s exactly what I wanted. Plus it has a very user-friendly layout.
“More importantly, patients love the new online way of doing things. Within the first few weeks of launch all the sites were receiving a significant number of requests online. Between the 4th of December and the 18th of April we received a massive 1338 online requests! The most popular ones were ‘Ask the Patient Services a question’ and ‘Ask a Clinician a question’. Perhaps even better, we had 83 new patients register online.
“We’re delighted with it, and with Silicon Practice. Their contact level is just right. They quickly respond to our requests and are always available to give advice.
Claire Foster, Practice Manager of Empingham Surgery
“Our new website is great – it visually identifies us as part of the federation but it’s still ‘us’, still ours. It looks good and it’s working really well. We can update it ourselves if we need to, which is important; for example we can upload NHS posters and our Practice news.
“Also our patients really like it! We didn’t promote it in any way, we just went live, and their uptake has been great. It’s fast and easy for them to use.
“We’re getting online requests every day. Registrations are particularly high – they’re coming in thick and fast. Since the website went live, we’ve had 45 in total.
“Every online interaction saves us time and helps our efficiency levels, so we’re very pleased with the results.”
Ian Razzell, Practice Manager of Oakham Medical Centre and Market Overton & Somerby Surgery
“Our three practices cover a large geographical area and we have over 20,000 patients across all demographics, so we had to be sure that our new websites would be user-friendly, fast and easy to use. We want to encourage patients to communicate with us online so that we can maximise our administration and realise time efficiencies.
“Our new websites tick all the boxes and have had a really positive outcome for the patients and the Practice. Since they went live we’ve had almost 1,000 online requests from our combined patient groups. That equates to a staggering amount of time saved, when you compare it to phone-in or walk-in interactions. Now, the patient can spend as long as they want on the website, without holding up a queue of other patients or feeling pressured by time.
“Repeat prescription requests are the most popular overall, followed by registration for EMIS access via the Oakham website. Best of all, in total we’ve had 204 new patient registrations completed without endless trips back and forth to the Practice. We’re delighted with our new sites and we’re looking forward to developing our federation’s online presence and abilities with the other member practices. Something we’re all thinking about for the future is to have a single portal for Search Engines which will give vital ‘at a glance’ information to patients e.g. emergency clinical and pharmacy telephone numbers, and be linked to each practice’s individual site, so that users can click through to whichever one they need. Silicon have delivered far more than any previous provider and critically, their response time to any issues is minutes/hours, not days/weeks.”
- From Physical to Digital – 10 Practical Ways to Get Your Patients Online
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.
- Touch the Digital Future
“FootFall has surpassed our expectations. It’s absolutely brilliant.” Gary Hughes, Waterfield Practice Business Manager
It’s been just 4 weeks since the launch of FootFall, the Digital Practice, and the early response has been incredible. We’re really excited to see other clients going live with FootFall next month.
So how has FootFall been received? How do Practices prepare their staff? How do they promote usage? What results can they expect? In this month’s edition we are answering these questions through the eyes of Gary Hughes, Business Manager at Waterfield Practice who has been an early implementer of FootFall.
We captured Gary’s diary and asked him about his experience in the first week of the roll-out of FootFall.
“I’m genuinely staggered at how many patients have made requests online. We’ve had 28 requests, just today!
That’s great considering we’ve not done a formal launch or announcement. We decided to leave it a full month before promoting FootFall, and then we’ll have regular campaigns throughout the year for different things, specific concerns. For example, we’ll push online prescriptions in the first campaign and then we’ll target asthma clinics in the second.”
“Today was our first ‘Lunch and Learn’ day. I’ve asked all Practice staff to pop by and have some training at lunchtime throughout the week – it’s not compulsory, but I am providing sandwiches!
I’m really pleased with how many staff came along on this first day. More than that, I’m delighted with how engaged they all are. They can really see the benefits of FootFall, and they’re all saying how easy it is to use.”
“All continues to go extremely smoothly; patients are continuing to communicate with us using FootFall online, rather than phoning or coming in.
The biggest positive for me is that the staff are absolutely thrilled with it. They’re all on-board; they’re all engaged; they’re all seeing and getting the benefits of the system – and that’s great.
From the very start, I wanted them to realise that this isn’t just a case of ‘here’s a new/different way for patients to communicate with us’.”
“Patients registering for online services is definitely the most popular part of FootFall. That’s good to know!
Interestingly, almost a third of all visits are to the Common Illnesses Room. Silicon Practice have set it up so that patients go through ‘a decision tree’ process so that they can find the information or solution they need straight away without having to hunt through the site.
What pleases me about this percentage is that it means more people are discovering that their symptoms can be addressed by visiting a pharmacist; that they don’t need to come in and see a doctor and get a ‘script.”
“We’ve had a total of 74 requests submitted online now. I’m turning into a bit of a stat fiend, but it’s all good! It’ll mean that after a few months I’ll be able to say ‘since installing FootFall, inbound patient calls to Waterfield have dropped by X percent’.
I asked our Senior Receptionist Bridget for her thoughts on FootFall, now that it’s been with us for a working week, and she said without a moment’s hesitation: ‘Oh, it’s fantastic. What a difference it makes! At first I thought oh my goodness, something else new to learn. But you know, it’s very easy to use’.”
- New year, new product
Gary Hughes, The Waterfield Practice
What does FootFall actually do?
It gives us everything we need to run a reliable digital practice, and gives 24/7 support to our patients.
Across the board, it will save our staff a great deal of time, which in turn will allow us to be more organised and productive.
Patients can use it to make appointments; get sick notes and repeat prescriptions, and to ask medical questions – all without having to telephone or come into the surgery.
From our side, it gives us time to respond to patient requests and queries, rather than having to deal with them on demand as and when patients phone or physically come in. It all means that we can be more orderly and allocate staff time and resources more efficiently.
What are the advantages for your patients?
FootFall is hugely different to our website and will be of real benefit to our patients. It allows them to communicate and interact with us much more easily – and quickly too. No more hanging on the phone for minutes on-end!
Apart from the activities which I’ve already mentioned, patients will be able to synchronise their prescriptions and appointments; which is obviously great for those who have several conditions.
Also it’ll give those who have long-term conditions such as diabetes and asthma all the information they need in one place.
Is FootFall easy to use?
Yes, both for us and our patients.
For patients, it uses what Silicon Practice call ‘a decision tree approach’ to guide them through a series of options until they arrive at the right solution for their query, concern or health condition. It’s all very intuitive and easy to use. Silicon Practice have a great understanding of how Practices work and what they need. They’ve completely re-thought the digital interface, and designed it from the patient’s perspective.
For us, FootFall’s Administration Dashboard is very, very clear and user-friendly. We can easily stay on top of everything, including tracking and responding to patient requests.
With the nationally ageing population, how confident are you that patients will actually go online and use your website/FootFall?
It’s an absolute fallacy that older people aren’t tech-savvy. 20% of our patient list is over 60 so it’s very important that we cater for these patients. FootFall is very clear and well-laid out so we’re expecting our stats to exceed our current usage of over 8,000 visits each month.
How will you let everyone know about FootFall?
Most of our patients already use our current website for things like booking appointments, so it’ll be a seamless progression for them. All in-bound calls are answered with a recorded message giving the website’s address; the message also gives examples of what they can use the website for e.g. repeat ‘script requests. To make sure that every single patient knows about FootFall, we’ll use the Waiting Room TV screen, generate footnotes on prescriptions, and text and email patients too. We already use text messaging for about a quarter of our list, and emailing for about a third. There’s some overlap, but that’s alright. People would rather know about something like FootFall which can make their lives easier than be left in the dark!
Waterfield Practice officially goes live with FootFall in February, but you can have a sneak peek at the preview site ahead of time.
If you’d like to see what FootFall could do for your Practice productivity please visit our website or request a personalised demo by contacting Jane Oddy on 01793 710500 or email email@example.com.
- Introducing FootFall, a digital practice
FootFall has been designed to meet the twin challenges of increasing patient demand and limited resources. Our new product has completely reimagined the way patients engage with GP Practices online.
FootFall boasts a complete rethink of how the services offered by your Practice are presented to patients and how patients interact with you to gain access to these services. This new solution pushes away from the traditional ways of thinking of patient interaction purely in terms appointment requests, repeat prescriptions and visits to the surgery towards the digital delivery of many of your services.
Taking its cue from the variety of requests that are typically made by patients to GP Practices, Footfall combines the benefits of two worlds: a new patient experience on the outside and an efficient effective operation model on the inside. Both enabled by digital patient interaction and a digital redesign of how you deal with patient requests.
We are launching this new product at the end of January 2016 following trials with Practices. If you would like to be one of the first to experience The Digital Practice, we are offering special preview demonstrations to our existing customers.
To register your interest, please give Jane Oddy a call on 01793 710500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Websites for Federated Practices
An interview with 12 Point Care
Dr Tara Belcher, 12 Point Care
What were your goals? What do you think you’ll be able to achieve as a Federation that you couldn’t as individual Practices?
Our initial goal was obviously to be able to tender for the large profitable Health Service contracts such as NHS health checks, which would otherwise go to the private sector. We strongly believe that if Practices don’t have the ability to undertake these lucrative projects, the NHS is going to end up with all the non-profitable work and perpetually be in a financial bind.
Also we wanted to be able to offer more services at wider times. Different Surgeries have different strengths and specialisms. By banding together, in the future we aim for 12 Point Care patients to have access to treatments which aren’t necessarily available at their own Practice. We also believe that the only viable way to facilitate 8am-8pm GP opening, 7 days per week, is through the collaboration of a Federation.
How do you see the Federation evolving?
We have identified sharing and pooling of resources and support as a potential huge benefit, and this is definitely our key driver now. A prime example of this would be in staff recruitment and retention, which is a major issue in the medical sector these days.
Working with the CCG Primary Workforce and Education Network, we are developing attractive portfolio posts for our GP trainees, allowing them to work in one of our member Practices whilst also being involved in the In Hours Visiting Service, commissioning or teaching. Newly qualified GPs in these posts will also benefit from mentoring.
Another example would be that our new Practice Managers will be supported by both the Federation’s online admin system and also, once the post is filled, in person by the actual Administrator. We expect this to be immensely beneficial in keeping them on-board, as of course the pressures they face can be overwhelming, particularly if they’ve come from a non-medical sector.
We will cement student nurse placements by facilitating the training of nurse mentors in member Practices and by running educational events for both nurses and doctors.
What part does the new website play in the success of your Federation?
It’s absolutely crucial. Through it we’re able to bring everything together and be a single-point source of information and ongoing support for our members. We use it to promote training and development courses and activities, and to share news, events and critical information such as best practices.
As well as data sharing and member linking, we have a library of resources which all our members can access at any time. When we developed the website with Silicon Practice, we basically asked ourselves “Is there an easy way to do this? Let’s try to pool all our aggregated knowledge so that every Practice member can have the information they need at their fingertips, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel.”
So the website’s audience isn’t just CCGs and Councils?
Far from it. It’s much more for our members and community. It’s a daily resource which actively supports and connects members and lets patients know where they can go for what medical service, and when.
Another example is that we’re undertaking all the administration of our Winter Resilience Scheme. Plus as I’ve already mentioned, the website functions as a recruitment platform.
What commercial success have you had so far?
We successfully won the bid to provide additional capacity in-hours and Care Home ward rounds as part of the Winter Resilience Scheme. Participating Practices receive a pro-rata share of the available funds.
How do you differentiate yourselves against your private sector competitors?
Confidentiality and familiarity. Patients know their information is secure with us. We’re their GPs; our confidentiality and data security is a given. Plus patients quite naturally prefer to go to their own doctors and surgeries for medical services – people who know them and their medical histories, and who they feel comfortable and safe with.
If you’d like to know more about setting up a website for your federated practices, please give Jane Oddy a call on 01793 710500 or email jane.oddy@
- Encouraging tech-savvy students to register at your practice
Freshers’ Week – How to get over 700 new patients registered in one month
David Jones, Clerkenwell Medical Practice
Based in East London, Clerkenwell’s catchment area covers several colleges, including the Alma Mater of many a soul in the medical profession: Imperial.
What were your traditional student registration methods?
We have 4 or 5 campuses on our patch, and we’d have to literally print out thousands of registration forms and stand in Halls all day, every day, during Freshers’ Week, handing them out. The new students would then fill in the forms and bring them into the surgery to complete the registration process.
We’d usually only get a couple of hundred registering before Christmas. The rest – 3,000 to 4,000 – would register in trickles throughout the ensuing academic year, usually when they were ill; which of course is quite a headache for both them and us.
How is it done differently now?
The new website which Silicon Practice developed for us enables them to register online; in fact, they have their own dedicated page on the site.
So now, instead of taking away the forms, filling them in (often times illegibly and with missing bits), bringing them back to us, going away to fill them out again properly, coming back to us… NOW they do it all online.
Because it’s all online, they can do it at a time to suit themselves, which in itself is a massive incentive and barrier removed!
Best of all, the page has mandatory fields so we’re never left with missing information.
You can imagine how much faster and easier the whole process is, both for them and us.
What are the benefits?
The new website has made a huge financial difference. We’ve seen a vast improvement in numbers – we’ve already received over 1000 new registrations.
Plus it’s eliminated 99% of the problems which we had last year – missing info, illegible writing and the like.
Time-wise, it’s saved a heck of a lot of time and made life much easier for our receptionists too.
How do the Freshers know about the website?
We have leaflets in their Uni Welcome Packs and also with the on-site nurse in the Halls which we’re on-site at. Although of course the students can register with any Practice, because the on-site nurse is from Clerkenwell, he or she has access to our patient files, so from the students’ point of view it’s more practical and convenient to be registered with us.
Also a key driver is our use of QR coding: we have a QR code on all the student literature. They just take a pic of it using their mobile or tablet and it takes them straight to the student registration page.
Julie Kiley, Engleton House Surgery
Engleton House runs the Coventry Uni Medical Centre, and recently introduced a new page to their website for student-specific online registration, including an online registration form.
Why did you decide to have online registrations?
We wanted to get as many students as possible to register with us at the start of the [academic] year, rather than having them come in during the year when they’re ill. To achieve this, we felt that we needed to make the process easier, faster and more convenient for them.
I’d seen the term “online registrations” in a Silicon Practice newsletter – it caught my eye because that’s exactly what was in my mind – so I gave Jane Oddy a call and went from there.
What have the results been?
Amazing. We’ve had 785 registrations so far. The Surgery doctors are delighted, as are the admin staff.
As well as the financial benefits, we’ve found that we’re saving a huge amount of time which used to be spent calling students back to get missing information, or not being able to read their handwriting. The mandatory fields have been so helpful; they’ve made everything so much faster.
How did you go about letting the new students know how to register with you?
We created a flyer which gave the QR code and handed them out at Freshers’ Week, so that they could instantly go to the right page. We also put the code on pull-up banners dotted around the college grounds.
The Uni was very helpful too – they let us put the flyers at all 7 receptions within the buildings, which is a great back-up for late arrivals or concerned parents.
How did you find the Silicon Practice team to be?
I found them very re-assuring to work with. From the very start when I initially contacted Jane, they’ve been quick to respond to every question and call. Our website editor – Charlie – would always call back straight away and nothing was ever too much trouble. We would bat ideas around together and both she and Jane were great at helping us get such a huge project completed so successfully.
I’m looking forward to debriefing with them in a couple of weeks, when we’ll go through everything with a fine-toothed comb and see if there are any improvements or upgrades to the system which we can make for next year. But for this year, this time around, all I can say is that we’re delighted.
If you’d like to know more about setting up new patient registration forms, please give Jane Oddy a call on 01793 710500 or email email@example.com.
- Google My Business
Google always seems to have a passion for providing small organisations with a boost in the business world. Google My Business helps improve your search rankings and make it easier for patients to find you. You can give your patients a quick inside glimpse of your Practice by adding photos and have your opening times, contact information and directions clearly on view within Google. Silicon Practice can now do all the hard work by setting up this powerful tool for you – all within your maintenance contract. For more information contact your website editor.
- Websites for GP Practices in Hounslow and West London
New websites for West London CCG & Hounslow
CCG Project Analyst Nick Hill and Silicon Practice’s Senior Developer Abby Hewlett discuss the behind-the-scenes research, project methodology, and the CCGs’ reasons for committing to such a huge venture.
How did the CCGs fund such a large project, and why was it necessary in the first place?
Nick: The funding came via the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, and as for ‘why’, we’ll have to scroll back to October last year. I was concerned about the lack of IT capability within the CCGs’ areas. I’d noticed that most of our Practices’ websites appeared to be quite old, and definitely weren’t able to do much for either them or their patients.
I wanted to know what the standard was; whether some GPs needed new sites and if so, what percentage.
What were the results?
I was shocked. Over 50% of them were sub-standard; little more than a page giving a telephone number. Worse still, 30% didn’t even have a website!
So what was the next step?
Well there was no denying that we needed to modernise across-the-board. We needed jargon-free; easy-to-understand and navigate websites which could be quickly found by existing and new patients.
So the next step was finding someone who could provide all of that, as well as extract the Surgeries’ information from each individual Practice Manager.
What was the CCGs’ vision for these websites?
It’s all about the patient. Our ultimate aim is for every Practice to have a website which is so patient-friendly they don’t need to phone in or go into the surgery unless it’s very important.
Why did you choose Silicon Practice?
A former colleague in Central London CCG pointed me to Silicon Practice because two of their practices had a Silicon Practice website.
After looking at their websites for myself and discussing our requirements with Jane Oddy, I was confident that Silicon Practice would be the best route. Initially I’d been thinking along the lines of an off-the-shelf generic template, but Silicon Practice’s websites aren’t as costly as one might think, and they have a tremendous amount of functionality.
Their websites ticked all the boxes. They’re search engine optimised so that people can find them quickly; they’re mobile and tablet friendly; they’re easy to use and best of all, they’re digitally ‘tooled up’ – they work in a way which helps both the patient and the practice. By encouraging patients to use online services, they save the practice an awful lot of time and admin.
How did you physically go about producing 35 new websites?
Abby: The first step was to create a pilot site, and from that, a template. It’s modular in design, therefore easy to replicate. Plus it gives a cross-board uniformity which underpins the CCG identity, whilst still allowing for visual and textual individualisation. It’s basically conformity which accommodates each Practice’s individuality.
How did you achieve a uniqueness for each Practice?
Nick: Silicon Practice provided template text which Practices could either use as-is or customise if they wanted to. This was very helpful, as it removes a massive onus from the Practice and makes life much easier for them!
Similarly, Silicon Practice supplied each Practice with a photo library containing shots from their local area. They’re free to choose whichever pictures they want, but whatever they pick will be relevant and reflect their community.
How did you know what information to put on each website?
Abby: We produced a very simple document for the Practice Managers to fill-in. It’s in a tabular, ‘tick-box’ format and so very quick for them to complete.
A CCG communications team member sent the document to the managers, explaining the necessity and benefits of the project. I then chase them up and get it all uploaded.
It’s more a case of working alongside them; making sure I’m there to help.
How do you keep on top of it?
I’ve developed a Project Management spreadsheet which enables me to keep track of what needs doing by or for whom, and when.
I’ve made sure that it contains ‘human notes’ – for example, some Practices are currently having CQC visits, and some managers are on holiday.
What stage is the project currently at?
Of the 21 sites in West London who are going ahead, 13 have been developed with 11 sites live. Similarly, out of the 14 Hounslow – four are now live and several are in preview.
So when will all the sites be up and running?
Once the CQC visits are over, they’re going to topple like dominoes! Certainly my aim is to get 2 sites a week live.
How did you find working with Silicon Practice?
Nick: It’s been a great working experience. They’re a good team. I’m actually quite sad to be leaving this project, but I know it’ll be in good hands, and I’m sure I’ll be checking in every now and then!
If you’d like to know more about setting up multiple GP websites within a federation or CCG please give Jane Oddy a call on 01793 710500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Intranet Success – 5 Questions to ask yourself
Every team will have their own measures of success, but a great starting point will be seeing how easily you can answer the 5 following questions:
- Does your intranet have a well-defined direction and purpose?
Practices often cite “ensuring that our organisation has the documentation needed for CQC” as one of the prime objectives for their intranet. Many practices have then broken this down further to “ensuring that everyone is up to date on the protocols and policies that are relevant to their role.”
- Does the intranet structure support staff needs?
Many intranets try to be all things to all people. This is where setting priorities based on what staff need to do their job becomes critical. For example, does your team waste time finding out who they need to contact? In which case a single staff directory and one for external contracts would help to solve the problem.
- Is the intranet designed to present information in an intuitive and engaging way?
At this stage it is a good idea to prioritise the things that you want people to do on the intranet (for instance to “sign” that they have read the latest protocol) and balance this with the things that employees want to access. This will allow you to avoid overwhelming visitors with overly busy pages. Making sure that headings and menus are displayed in an engaging way will pay dividends in terms of encouraging usage.
- Is ownership clearly defined and are the people who are responsible for delivering the intranet well supported?
A successful intranet will require work and input. Asking for project volunteers at the planning stage and assigning responsibilities will save your project from becoming a pie in the sky.
- What are the feedback mechanisms for improving the intranet once it has been launched?
Your team will expect the intranet to steadily improve to help them to get their work done. So consider having a feedback mechanism on your intranet that makes it easy for visitors to report a problem and to identify improvements. The feedback will provide you direction to target your efforts in the future.
And one final thought, with intranets, slow and steady most often wins the race.
- Does your intranet have a well-defined direction and purpose?
- How do you manage patient input to your website design?
Our main feature this month is an interview with Gary Hughes at Waterfield Practice who has implemented a survey to gather patients’ ideas about the new website.
A painless way of getting feedback
As a key part of planning the new website for Waterfield Practice, Gary Hughes, Practice Manager has invited feedback from patients right at the start of the project. This approach is designed to help ensure that their new website has the right tools and content for the job.
Why did you feel that you needed to survey your patients?
My foremost goal is to ensure that the Practice’s new website is a truly interactive experience for our patients; that it encourages and allows them to do as much as possible online rather than in person at the surgery. Ultimately, I want to reduce incoming telephone calls and unnecessary appointments.
In order to do this, I need to understand things from their perspective; I need to know what they feel would make life easier for them. Once I know that, I’ll know what needs to be included in the new website’s design.
How did you go about the research?
Silicon Practice’s team worked with me to create a questionnaire which they’ve uploaded to our current website. It’s a list of sixty activities ranging from ‘request a sick note’ to ‘find out if there’s a health alert in the area.’ Of these activities, patients are asked to select their top five in terms of preference.
Why limit the choice to only five priorities?
Firstly, we were concerned that anything over five questions would prove off-putting. Also of course it would be impractical to include absolutely every single area which patients select, so limiting the choice to five gives us a sure-fire way to be more focused when it comes to defining the site’s tools.
How did you choose the questions?
Obviously the team and I here at Waterfield had a very good idea of what to ask, but Silicon Practice had a large input too. They’ve created many websites for other Practices and have had first hand experience of working with patient groups.
Why have you opted for doing the research online?
It’ll allow us to statistically measure patients’ needs, to rapidly analyse the results and know with certainty what features we’ll need to incorporate into the new site. By comparison, simply asking patients “What would you like the new website to do?” could lead to a plethora of subjective answers! This method immediately focuses people onto specific issues.
How did you make your patients aware of the survey?
I’m using the Practice’s social media channels, and also I’ve put posters in the waiting room. Plus I’ve temporarily re-formatted all the repeat prescription forms so that a small notice about the survey is printed out underneath the meds. And just to make sure that no-one slips the net, I’ve altered the switchboard’s on-hold and voicemail-invitation messages.
You can see the survey on Waterfield Practice’s website. The new site will be going live in the Autumn so be sure to keep an eye out for a link in our future newsletters.
- Online access that will cut your practice workload
Online Patient Registrations: an interview with Tom Micklewright, Managing Partner at Lake Road Practice and John Pounds Surgery
Why did you feel that you needed to make patient registration an online process?
Fundamentally, we wanted to ease the registration process for both ourselves and our patients. The traditional method of patients having to download and print off the forms, then fill them in and return them to us – usually with questions and sometimes with incomplete information – is very time consuming. We wanted a modern, faster system; and as the Practice covers a location which is a popular student residential area, we wanted it fast; certainly in time for the new intake in August/September.
How successful has it (the online registration process) been? Did it achieve your goals?
Yes. Since the site went live in April, 70 more new patients than usual have registered with the surgery following a period of no growth between January and March.
What are the benefits to your patients?
Convenience and comfort. The online form-filling system makes the whole process far less cumbersome for them. Patients can collate and give us all the information we need from the comfort of their own homes – all online.
Also, once they’ve registered, the system automatically fires off a Welcome Pack to them and lets them know what they need to do next; come into the surgery with proof of ID to finalise the process; phone to book an appointment, for example. If any other particular documentation is required, the system will let them know to bring it in too when they next come in, and we can scan it and store it securely online, alongside all their other data and files.
What are the benefits to you and to your Practice?
For a start, receiving all the data in a typed format makes a huge difference! It’s surprising how much time is saved by not having to decipher handwriting or call people up to ask them what they wrote.
If one compares the traditional registration process to our new online system, the time savings to be made are pretty obvious. The patient spends considerably less time in the surgery, which in turn frees up our receptionists and administrative staff.
One feature of the system which is particularly useful is the mandatory fields attribute. In a nutshell, we can choose which data fields must be completed. It may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many times we used to be presented with incomplete forms in the past. That meant more time spent chasing up the missing information. With our online process, we can ensure that we get everything we need right from the start.
And what for the future?
Our drive is to have as many forms as possible online. We believe that patients being able to do more for themselves online is the way forward. We are already working with Silicon Practice working to integrate further patient communication online with our patients via our website. More interactive forms for us – travel and vaccinations, for example. This should be online and working by mid-July.
If you would like know more about these services or would like a demonstration please contact Jane Oddy email@example.com or call 01793 710500.
- New Solution – Silicon Pathway
Working in conjunction with GP Practices we have designed an innovative approach to dealing with patient requests online. Our new solution, Silicon Pathway, has been developed to reduce telephone calls and appointments with the Practice.
Silicon Pathway directly addresses many of the common questions that patients ask the practice. This includes issues such as requests for sick notes, referral information and every day health conditions that traditionally take up practice resources.
We are now taking requests to demonstrate this product to our existing customers. If you would like to see how our solution can help you to reduce inappropriate appointments and reduce the questions that result in a phone call to the practice, please get in touch with Jane Oddy on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01793 710500.