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Practice communications

Managing practice pressure

Emma Workman

25th October 2021

With a recent study announcing the confirmation that both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster can be administered at the same time, practices are now competing with pharmacies to contact patients, arrange vaccine appointments and manage the process of administering vaccinations to those who are eligible.

This does not come without its challenges.

With patients becoming impatient, worried and even scared (which is expected) as the winter months roll in, practices are reporting ‘of daily confrontations with patients over issues including appointments, vaccinations and blood tests’ (The Guardian, 2021), despite their very best efforts in keeping all patient cohorts up to date.

The additional phone calls, patient visits and re-arrangements ‘causes a huge increase in staff’s already unsustainable workloads’ (GP, 2021), as well as adding to the frustration of patients who just want to know what’s going on.

It has since been reported that many practices are finding themselves with increased numbers of employees exiting the organisation or being forced to close doors to limit patient contact, to minimise the strain on practice staff. ‘There are now just 0.45 fully qualified GPs per 1000 patients in England’ (BMA, 2021), with this gap increasing daily.

The additional pressures this vital sector is currently dealing with, ‘the most severe pressure it has faced in its 70-year history (BMA, 2021)’, are not set to go anywhere soon as we enter the winter season.

So how can practices manage these additional pressures, whilst still reassuring patients? It starts with effective communication.

Communicating with patients effectively has always been a vital aspect for medical professionals and this winter it’s more important than ever to ensure patients are kept updated using a method of communication that is easy for practices to manage and that patient’s trust.

Managing practice pressure with post

To help manage practice pressure, practices are opting for a single letter that encapsulates everything a patient needs to know, in one document that can be referred to, acts as a reminder and can be brought to appointments when required.

It’s pulling on those traditional methods of communicating, in a personalised way to ensure that patients have everything they need to know.

A single letter can act as a means of sending a variety of information due to its flexible design approach (it’s a blank A4 sheet until text is added) with practices opting to use postal communication for: 

  • Joint flu vaccination and COVID-19 booster appointments
  • Flu clinic invitations
  • Practice updates and notices
  • Appointment schedules
  • Test results
  • Confirmation of appointments
  • Knowledge sharing

Postal communications are considered to have more value than digital communications, building trust with patients and encouraging meaningful actions to take place. This helps strengthen the practice-patient relationship that seems to have gone a miss over the last 12 months.

What’s more, with more space on a letter than many other channels of communication it provides practices with the ability to provide patients with the vital information they require, all in one place, removing the quantity of practice traffic including calls and visits, by providing clarity straight to a patient’s door step.

Postal communications do not discriminate between patient cohorts, with all patients being accessible by letters, regardless of access to digital technology. This provides practices with one, secure means of communicating to all patients at a given period.

Digital fatigue, is a growing issue with more and more people becoming overwhelmed by the volume of online messages they receive everyday. 100% of NHS appointment mail is opened (JICMAIL, 2020), with important information often being kept or stuck to the fridge as a reminder, so if you are a medical practice looking to improve patient engagement, then letters could be the solution you are looking for.

Hybrid mail can transform the way you communicate with your patients. Saving you valuable time and helping you manage practice pressure.

Hybrid mail is a modern and cost-effective digital mail solution which enables practices to quickly and easily send personalised printed mail to one or a thousand recipients, this can then be followed up with a text message or a secure electronic document and can be linked to your patient’s clinical records keeping everything up to date.

With the removal of the traditional in-house mailing process, of purchasing equipment, printing, folding and stuffing envelopes and trips to the post office, whatever the weather, hybrid mail makes all this accessible, instantly and online, saving practices valuable time and resources when sending communications.

What’s more many hybrid mail services, like Docmail, enable users to store templates and pre-schedule mailings so that everything a busy practice needs can be found in one place in regards to communications, increasing productivity and improving processes, so that the management of patient care communication can be streamlined in one system.

Whilst post is typically considered an expensive means of communication, did you know that when outsourcing the print element to a hybrid mail specialist, it can save you up to 59% on each document you send? Not only saving practices money but allowing those already tight budgets to be stretched that little bit further.

CFH Docmail Limited: a provider you can trust.

Lead by industry-leading technology and sector experts, Docmail’s online alternative print method, allows practices to manage, print and send letters directly to their patients within the security of the clinical system. Saving crucial time and resources to already overstretched medical practices.

The Print Driver is ‘total genius’ we tested it for our monthly recall letters without a hitch. We are about to start our flu mailing programme and it will be a huge bonus. We estimate that using Docmail and the Print Driver collectively save us one and a half days of admin time - which over the course of the year is the equivalent of one month of a member of staff’s time.

QOF Manager at St Austell Health Care

If you would like a free practice communication audit please get in touch below and our sector experts will be happy to review your requirements, and discuss how Docmail can help you manage practice pressure this winter.

References
JICMAIL 2020 Medical (NHS/dental/private healthcare/chemist/optical) appointment letter n= 1191

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