Patient Partner, Bristol

Specifically developed to solve communication problems experienced in General Practices whilst easing the load on reception staff, Patient Partner is a cost-effective solution that benefits patients and staff alike.

Female nurse on the phone

Patient Partner works very well with EMIS.

Voice Connect have installed our Patient Partner system at a surgery in a reasonably affluent area near to Bristol city centre. The practice, which first opened in 1966, has extended to include around 9,700 patients on its register, a large proportion of whom are professional people who make informed and appropriate decisions about their healthcare. The surgery currently has 8 doctors in addition to 16 staff who work in a range of administrative, support and clinical roles.

Extended opening hours and a steadily growing population mean that phone lines at most surgeries across the UK are constantly busy. Prior to installing Patient Partner, this surgery was no different. The practice decided to look into using an automated appointment booking system due to a progressive increase in telephone calls, which contributed to a general increase in workload for reception staff.

Heather Carrigan, Business Development Manager at the surgery, admits that they had some reservations before going ahead with Voice Connect’s Patient Partner system. “We were concerned about how our patients and staff would react and whether our appointments and tirage set up would streamline smoothly with the Voice Connect system,” she explains. “We were also concerned about how it would integrate with our nurse team appointments.”

However, Heather is pleased to report that, some inevitable teething problems aside, the installation went smoothly and that Patient Partner has lived up to expectations, complementing the current procedures in place and integrating successfully with EMIS.

Man standing at reception desk

“It has certainly helped us in many areas, such as managing the reception team’s workload”

“Patient Partner works very well with our EMIS system,” comments Heather. “It enabled us to make significant improvements in many aspects of the day-to-day life of the practice. We have reduced call congestion, particularly at peak call times, by offering patients more flexibility when they call. The system has also freed up receptionists’ time and has reduced DNAs (Did Not Attends) at the practice.”

Heather also reports that Patient Partner has been well received and is used successfully by most patients, although a few are more resistant to the change. “We have had some critical comments from patients who are frustrated at not getting the appointment at the time or on the day they were hoping for,” she explains. “However, I would advise a practice with the system to tackle this by continuing to promote it to the patients so they can experience for themselves how well it works. It’s also worth following up failed validations, explaining to patients what went wrong and why, to restore their confidence that the system really does work.”

Heather describes the support from Voice Connect throughout the transition and implementation process as “excellent” and would have no hesitation in urging another surgery to consider installing Patient Partner. “I would say go for it!” she comments. “The capital outlay in year one seems a bit off-putting at first, but I think the benefits far outweigh this. From year two onwards, we are expecting the Voice Connect system to earn its keep. It has certainly helped us in many areas, such as managing the reception team’s workload by removing routine call handling, allowing them to develop skills in other areas. This system enables us to monitor demand and report on levels of phone activity which we were unable to do before. It has also improved patient satisfaction and has played an important part in supporting the management of an increasing patient list, without the need to routinely increase staffing levels.”