Clinic cuts 'hidden waitlist' with digital patient pathways


Wednesday, 26 April, 2023

Clinic cuts 'hidden waitlist' with digital patient pathways

A South Australian industry and public health collaboration is tackling the long wait periods for outpatient appointments — referred to as the ‘hidden waitlist’ — by ensuring every appointment slot is filled and patients arrive prepared.

The project has reduced failure to attend (FTA) rates by 56% at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) Outpatients Orthopedics unit by removing traditional phone calls and letters, replacing them with a digital patient experience that sends a patient’s clear preparation needs, appointment notifications and confirmations, and notifies the clinic of patients who are unable to attend.

The joint project between Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) RAH Outpatients Orthopedics team, Personify Care, and Healthcare Logic  is said to have found that using digital patient pathways can improve the patient experience and reduce failure to attend rates for outpatient appointments.

“CALHN has significantly reduced FTA rates for orthopaedic outpatients — reducing wasted appointment slots and improving patient access to care,”  said Ashleigh Wilhelm-Plumley, Central Outpatient Project Manager at Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Patients were invited to a Personify Care pathway three weeks before their clinic appointment from a list generated by Healthcare Logic’s SystemView. Patients were notified of their upcoming appointment and staff were alerted in advance of the patients that needed to be rescheduled.

To support other health services facing a significant backlog for outpatient appointments, the teams identified four areas that were key success factors in the study: simple patient list generation via Systemview and automatic/bulk invitation; high patient response rates to Personify Care digital patient pathway; automated patient screening; and executive support to provide staff with time for reallocation of appointment slots.

“Efforts are being made to expand the initiative to other clinical units with relatively high FTA rates. The scope of the pathways is being expanded to reduce review rates caused by patients arriving unprepared for their appointment. This work aims to further improve the access and effectiveness of outpatient services,” Wilhelm-Plumley said.  

Image credit: iStockphoto.com/mastersky

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