Yorkshire tech firm Vapour Cloud has developed a secure, automated appointment booking service for the NHS.
The new facility – which integrates into the UK’s leading clinical system for GPs, EMIS Web – is designed to improve operational efficiencies and enhance access to care for patients in the UK.
Recognising the increased pressures being placed on GP receptions, and the difficulties associated with handling the rising number of incoming calls, the system allows patients to book, cancel or change their appointment using a phone at any time of the day or night.
Vapour Cloud, which is based in Elland, between Huddersfield and Halifax, says the quick-book option will facilitate this process in less than 60 seconds, offering greater convenience for patients whilst having a significant impact on time savings for surgeries.
By entering their date of birth and registered phone number using only the telephone keypad, a patient is identified via a secure database lookup. If they’re calling from the registered number, they simply press the hash key.
When the process is complete, an automated SMS confirmation is sent to the patient and the doctor’s diary is updated in real time. GPs can also manage Vapour’s new booking solution wholly within their existing EMIS Web system, to avoid any increased administrative burden.
“With the increasing tendency for patients to use automated services, I’d expect this solution to pick up around 20 per cent of calls to a GP surgery, which would have a huge impact on easing pressure on receptionists and staffing budgets,” said Vapour Cloud CEO Tim Mercer.
“Like many other industries, healthcare is moving towards cloud-based technologies to drive efficiencies and streamline processes for employees, ultimately delivering enhanced services to patients at the same time.
“We’ve seen tremendous advancements in the US in this respect, so it’s crucial that the UK follows suit, especially given the pressures being encountered by the NHS.”
The new service is the latest to be made available via the EMIS Health partner programme, which offers its customers a wide choice of add-on products that integrate seamlessly with its core software. There are now more than 100 accredited partners in the programme.
Drawing on the same technological principles used in the appointment-booking system, Vapour is now looking at devising advanced solutions involving video communications.
“One of our key considerations with this project was the need for a universal experience for all patients, regardless of their connectivity or technological capabilities,” added Mercer.
“That’s why we’ve developed a secure system which doesn’t require any prior registration or internet access. This means that any potential barriers which could prevent users from accessing this new service, are automatically removed.
“And, because appointments can be made or amended, 24/7, without the involvement of a receptionist, this should improve the process for patients and clerical staff alike.
“This latest development marks our evolving, established relationship with EMIS Health and our continued commitment to supporting much-needed digital innovation in this sector.”