Blog | How iReceptionist is re-defining a patient’s hospital experience

When it comes to patient experience, first impressions count. Over the last 12 months, a handful of NHS Trusts have been quietly helping Intouch with Health shape a new outpatient receptionist technology that will re-frame the way patients arrive at hospital. Intouch’s Director of Business Development, Doug Hopkins, explains how iReceptionist was designed, created and deployed.

Secondary care is coming back to life. As outpatient appointments and re-scheduled operations gradually re-start, operational teams at NHS Trusts across the UK are embracing new ways of working. Ways of working centred around new technology and ways of delivering healthcare in the midst of the pandemic.

But, despite working hard to adapt to the new normal, for the staff on the ground at the Trusts I’ve worked with over the past few months, many of their pre-existing, ‘pre-pandemic’ priorities still remain.

Within the heartbeat of co-ordinating outpatient care, there’s an insatiable urge to quench the thirst around improving the outpatient journey. The NHS staff I’ve spoken to remain dedicated to increasing levels of patient satisfaction. Yet this must be done while working within the constraints of increasingly stretched budgets.

Nothing counts more than a warm welcome

It’s the opinion of many NHS teams that the key to unlocking an improved journey lies when visitors first arrive.

As the saying goes, ‘first impressions count’. When it comes to setting a precedent for a positive experience, nothing counts more than a warm welcome.

In an ideal world, each outpatient setting would have a team of receptionists immediately available to greet patients. A team to check patients in for their appointments and relay instructions on where they should be, and when. But the reality of an already-stretched NHS dictates the funding for a set-up like this simply isn’t there. We spoke to several Trusts of various sizes around their top priorities that included;

  • How could they improve the patient experience whilst not increasing operational costs?
  • Can they extend reception support to all outpatient locations, clinics, and sites across their estate?
  • How do they extend the reach of the reception service without incurring additional operational costs?
  • How could Trusts reduce some admin on Reception teams to allow increased support to front line staff?

These are the questions the Intouch team have been working with a handful of innovative Trusts to answer.

Blending our expert knowledge of developing patient self-check-in and flow management technology, with insights from a number of Trusts, we set about developing a solution to this problem.

Collaborating to develop a solution

Working closely with patient access teams, we scoped out the functionality of a remote reception solution. We explored the level of information patients and carers would need to access when using it. Liaising with operations managers from the same Trusts, we looked at what integrated reporting elements a remote reception solution needed in order to help benchmark and improve patient experience, measure the efficiency benefits, and drive continuous improvements.

Encouraged by the fact that 7 in 10 online adults in the UK are now making video calls at least weekly (up from 35% pre-lockdown), we called on our long-standing partner, Kingdom Technologies. Together, we set out to evolve our regular check-in kiosk design. We integrated a high-quality video and audio connection to facilitate face-to-face video interaction between the patient using the kiosk and a remote receptionist. Kiosks are recognisable across the NHS and a device patients are comfortable with. Kiosks also provide multi-purpose functionality, including patient check-in and way-finding.

Throughout the process, an honest and open dialogue between the Intouch development team and NHS staff at the coal face of outpatient care helped us bring to life a solution designed for, and largely by, the NHS teams who knew exactly how it needed to work.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, we redesigned the core functionality of the kiosks. Originally, we had planned to incorporate a traditional telephone handset. We believe this would provide a recognisable, reassuring symbol to patients and visitors that they would be speaking to a human-being. In response to COVID-19, we needed to move away from a handset that multiple people would touch and could prove time consuming to clean. Working with another partner, HDI, we developed an alternative solution using speakers and an anti-bacterial touchscreen. To support infection prevention measures, the anti-bacterial coating kills 99.9% of microbial contamination.

Easy-to-use, innovative technology that extends the reach of receptionists

The result of our research, development and collaboration is iReceptionist.

This roaming reception solution allows outpatients to contact a centrally organised reception team from anywhere across an NHS trust.

iReceptionist enables Trusts to extend their reception service across their estate while only requiring staff at one location. Using iReceptionist’s live dashboard, reception teams can easily see when a new query arrives, their location if they are using a kiosk, and how long the caller has been waiting.

The reception team can then provide remote (virtual face-to-face) support to help patients with queries including locating a clinic or a relative who is in hospital, finding their way around the building or simply completing a self-check-in using the kiosk.

It’s been a true meeting of minds getting iReceptionist to launch. I’m grateful that we have been able to work closely with experienced teams across several Trusts to make iReceptionist exactly what the NHS needs it to be; easy-to-use, innovative technology that extends the reach of receptionists across multiple hospital sites to improve the patient experience without incurring additional operational costs.

Our first iReceptionist customer, a large London-based NHS Trust, goes live in September. This is part of a major, Trust-wide digital outpatient transformation project in collaboration with Intouch. The service will initially be rolled-out in out-of-hours clinics and weekend outpatient locations in one hospital. From there, we’ll build a wider scope to tailor iReceptionist to meet the precise requirements of the Trust. iReceptionist will then extend across all Trust sites. Analytics and reports on the service also supports the Trust’s continuous improvement processes. iReceptionist’s reports will help ensure the service’s impact is maximised – benefiting each patient and visitor who require reception support.

Learn more

To find out more about how iReceptionist can help your Trust improve the patient experience, click here.

How iReceptionist is re-defining a patient’s hospital experience