East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has reduced the cost of appointment letters by 51% with new patient communications initiative in digital medium.

After the launch of digital letter in July, the trust has seen 44% of its patients opting to receive their appointment letter through digital medium. This in turn has reduced by 50% the cost that the trust usually spends on each posted correspondence.

Developed by Healthcare Communications, the digital letter portal’s introduction comes after the implementation of a multi-channel appointment reminder service, which has enabled the trust to cut down DNAs from 8.9% to 7.5%. This remainder service has freed up 38,000 reusable appointment slots in over a year.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust centralised outpatients and administration services directorate manager Sue Elliston said: “During the last year, we have totally overhauled our appointment booking operations.

“The appointment reminder campaign has helped us significantly reduce the number of patients failing to attend their appointments and we have now upscaled our digital offering this summer to give patients the ability to access appointment letters and supporting information via their mobile device or computer.”

The portal is aimed at improving patient experience as they will be able to gain information about their appointment right “at their fingertips”.

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Furthermore, the portal enables communications to cater to a patient’s requirements. For example, it enables quick translation into the language preferred by a patient, or converting a text to speech.

Elliston added: “There are benefits to the Trust as well by delivering a direct cost saving when compared to the postage charge and reducing admin time involved in traditional letters, thus making our processes much more efficient.”

Healthcare Communications commercial director Kenny Bloxham said: “The team at ELHT’s patient communications transformation programme is moving at pace, and we have now brought digital options to the entire patient journey – from the appointment letter and reminders, to the Friends and Family Test feedback.”

Healthcare Communications has been working with the NHS for the last 18 years.

The portal sends out a digital invite that enables patient to view appointment letters, pre-assessments and other supporting information on their smartphone, tablet and desktop.

It also enables patients to click in order to immediately confirm, cancel or rebook their appointment. Patients can also add the appointment in their digital calendar, and access real-time travel maps.

Under Phase I, digital letters have been introduced to East Lancashire’s centralised outpatient appointment bookings. It will be introduced by the trust at specialist outpatient areas.