NHS healthcare providers are using DrDoctor to reduce unnecessary appointments, thereby releasing clinical capacity to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic-driven backlog.
According to the BMA and other sources, over 20 million outpatient appointments did not take place as a result of Covid-19 over the 12 months to March 2021.
This could take the NHS around four and a half years or 235 weeks to clear with its present capacity.
A quarter of outpatient appointments slated every week could be removed with a digital-first approach.
The much-needed clinical and administrative capacity can be released by utilising technology, for instance to ask patients if they wish to be seen, or to remotely check if a patient’s symptoms are getting worse. Such an approach could create additional headroom for the NHS to clear the appointments backlog in 35 weeks, or just eight months.
Digital patient engagement specialist DrDoctor is supporting more than 30 NHS organisations with services including appointments management, patient engagement and virtual consultation.
DrDoctor claimed that NHS organisations have been able to increase clinical capacity by using its patient-centred software suite to help release staff to tackle the waiting list challenge.
DrDoctor CEO Tom Whicher said: “DrDoctor is showing how the NHS is embracing a digital-first approach to provide staff with the support and breathing space they need to clear the appointments backlog. If this was done across the NHS, it would release additional capacity – of 516,805 appointments per week.”
DrDoctor noted that with digital patient engagement and remote monitoring technology, patients will be able to let their doctors know continuously if their symptoms get worse and if they wish to be seen. Doctors too, on the other hand, will be able to keep a closer eye on patients who might be at risk, without an in-person appointment requirement.
This will result in the NHS releasing an additional 24% of capacity, which in turn could be used to further help cut down the appointment waiting list. This could release an extra 431,743 appointments per week.
Whicher continued: “Throughout the pandemic, seeing and engaging patients using a digital first approach has been a major part of the NHS response. We believe that this needs to be enhanced and embedded as business as usual to clear the backlog.
“Digital patient engagement helps release capacity to support those who use existing channels. It can also lay a foundation for more personalized care, that will help the NHS tailor care in ways that address health inequalities. It is the platform for a more productive and sustainable NHS.”