Blog | Solving the pre-op problem: how digital home questionnaires can unlock efficiencies

According to findings from the Department of Health’s ‘Digital by Default’ survey, 40% of all pre-operative screenings in secondary care could be conducted remotely, amounting to 1.2 million hospital appointments avoided.

Simply put, it tells us that nearly half of the patients seen in hospital by a triage nurse in the weeks before their operation don’t need to physically be there in order to have their pre-operative assessment carried out.

For healthcare professionals working in NHS trusts across the country, this provides an opportunity. An opportunity to become more efficient, an opportunity to adopt new technology, and an opportunity to create significant cost savings.

Think briefly about the current pre-operative assessment process that most UK hospitals follow.

A patient needs an operation. Several weeks before their operation, (sometimes just two weeks before their operation, not allowing time for complex patients to be ready), they receive a letter. The letter directs them to attend the hospital for a specified pre-operative assessment. They book time off work, book child cover and pay for transport to attend the hospital. They wait for their appointment, which is sometimes delayed. A nurse then spends roughly one-hour conducting the pre-operative assessment … and the process continues.

It’s difficult not to view the current pre-operative process as clunky, disruptive to the patient, resource and cost heavy for the hospital and the antithesis to a reduction in the number of outpatient appointments.

Is there a better way to do things?

An increasing number of hospitals are exploring the possibility of patients completing their pre-operative assessment triage questionnaire from home. With targets to reduce waiting room pressure and free up time for triage teams to spend more time with higher risk patients, conducting pre-op questionnaires out of hospital is proving a highly effective way of creating efficiencies while improving the patient experience.

By providing a patient with a URL link to a pre-operative questionnaire via a secure web app, solutions such as Intouch with Health’s Synopsis Home are supporting hospitals to put the power back in the patient’s hands and direct them to carry out their pre-operative assessment questionnaire in the comfort of their home, office, on the train or even while on holiday.

It’s a process that is worlds away from being clunky, disruptive to the patient and cost heavy to the hospital.

The patient is asked only the most important questions, and the results generated for each patient are sent to the hospital. Triage staff are provided with the questionnaire results, including ASA and POSPOM scores in terms of risk, as well as information on cardiac and lung risk, allowing the assessment to be processed appropriately.

This new way of conducting a pre-op questionnaire takes the patient on average just 8 minutes, compared to the often lengthy appointment time in hospital, and the patient can complete the questionnaire immediately, rather than waiting for an appointment to come back to hospital.

What’s more, patients are given control of their health information, agreeing to submit it to the hospital and receiving a notification when it has been accessed by hospital staff. The whole process is easy-to-use, efficient and transparent.

Reducing appointments, freeing up time and achieving data efficiencies

The NHS Long Term Plan commits to reducing face-to-face outpatient appointments by up to a third over the next five years.

From a numbers perspective, adopting out-of-hospital pre-op assessment technology is estimated to help reduce outpatient appointments across the NHS by 1.2 million per year and release cost efficiencies to the value of £48 million.

From a people point of view, triage teams are freed up to spend more time with higher risk patients and provide more thorough information to patients on what they need to do both pre and post-surgery to take the very best care of themselves and reduce post-surgery re-admissions.

From a data angle, information is passed quickly between the patient and hospital in real-time, meaning more efficient ways of working and less time spent processing paper records.

As Matt Hancock stated in his recent keynote address to the Healthcare Alliance, better technology is not a ‘nice to have’ but ‘vital to have’ for the future of the NHS.

By conducting pre-operative assessment questionnaires at home, the NHS has an opportunity to become more efficient, an opportunity to adopt new technology, and an opportunity to make crucial cost savings; all while placing power back in the hands of the patient and encouraging them to be more involved in their own health care.

Can you see the opportunity?

Pre-op questionnaire at home