On November 4th it is World Paper Free Day and by actively engaging with the practice the benefits do not just extend to the environment.
Going digital, or paperless can have significant cost and time saving results.
This is most recently seen in Xerox’s hybrid mail service at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.
As a large acute trust in the south-east of England, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust sends out more than a million outpatient appointment letters and reminders every year to residents of Kent and parts of East Sussex.
Parallels can be drawn to all kinds of businesses, in all variety of sizes.
The trust’s Clinical Administration Unit (CAU) arranges these appointments and the letter dispatch part of the process was time-consuming legwork that diverted more than 45 CAU staff away from dealing directly with consultants and patients to organise appointments.
With thousands of letters to send every day, each of them was spending an average of half an hour daily: preparing and printing letters; finding, printing or photocopying leaflets; folding and putting pages into envelopes for posting.
For patients there were downsides too, according to the CAU.
They didn’t have the resources to keep patient address data consistently clean and up-to-date; and pressures of work could delay dispatch.
If letters didn’t arrive, the best outcome was that the CAU’s time was taken up with calls from patients who realised they’d not heard from the trust as expected. The worst was that patients simply wouldn’t arrive for appointments.
These challenges fell to the administrative and clerical workstream project manager in the trust’s programme management office (PMO), Ruby Dey.
She understood that technology could help improve outpatient correspondence, by driving cost efficiency and reliability.
Xerox came up with a solution called the hybrid mail service that secured patient information management effectively.
It has allowed staff to generate and send individual letters if required, rather than batches.
The provider also has the ability to add specific standard paragraphs to specific letter types and invalid addresses are identified before printing, and any delivery failures.
End-to-end letter tracking was finally introduced, and is accessible to approved trust staff.
Dey acknowledged that the automated selection of the right inserts to tracking of letter delivery was important, while the mail system ‘can also integrate with the Docman system for sending letters electronically to GPs.’
The service can also tailor process to work with ‘our patient administration system (PAS), which generates letters in a proprietary format.’
The results are impressive
Apparently, the trust is now saving more than 50% every year in direct costs (paper, envelopes, print costs and postage).
On top of that are indirect savings: less time taken up with patient complaints about late or missing letters; and three FTEs of resource no longer needed for letter dispatch, deployed instead to improve other patient pathway activities.
>See also: Digital transformation set to save NHS Trust
Significantly, there is only a 2% delivery failure rate, down from 60% because of better data control and tracking.
With letters also getting to patients more quickly and reliably, the trust’s ‘did not attend’ numbers have dropped noticeably: excellent news for patient care.
It’s a hugely appreciated service,” says Ruby Dey. “And we can build on it with features we’re not yet using, or extend it to other outgoing trust correspondence, such as diagnostics or HR. We fully expect to derive even greater benefit in future.”