The Island Surgery is one of 6 Essex GP practices comprising the Canvey Primary Care Network (PCN). Clinics include the management of chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes, plus a wide variety of other medical services including antenatal and postnatal care, childhood vaccinations, injections, dressings and health checks. The PCN provides access to multi-disciplinary professionals including pharmacists, emergency care practitioners, social prescribers and mental health practitioners.
The Island Surgery were saddled with an old and very limited phone system. Jackie Brown, Practice and Business Manager, explained that "only 12 people calling in could be in the queue at any one time; from call number 13 onwards the system cut them off. The patients thought that we had answered the phone and then hung up.
"I used to receive many complaints from patients about the phone system every day. Patients and staff were unhappy; patients did not receive the service that they deserved and it was stressful for reception staff as patients were understandably frustrated with the telephone system. I had no means of monitoring the number of calls coming in."
Being a cloud based system, Surgery Connect allowed The Island Surgery to completely alter the patient experience, allowing patients to be held in a queue while being kept informed, with reception staff being able to access call handling and routing features via the user consoles, and with management being provided real-time statistics and downloadable reports allowing them to effectively manage resources, particularly during busy times: "We can now put staff members into groups for example: prescription, referrals, result, or appointments, and I can see when there are long queues, so we can manage the calls in a much more efficient and effective way, and that has improved the patient experience."
Call recording is also a new feature having an impact at The Island Surgery: "Because staff know that calls are recorded, it's helped with their training, with their telephone techniques. It's given them more confidence because if a call is particularly challenging, they know that I can listen to the call and then contact the patient myself to assist with any issues. It's raised the standards of all of us, including me, on the phone.
"I can sit with the member of staff and listen to a call recording and then I can perhaps ask 'how do you think you might handle that differently next time?' I can use call recording to improve my communications skills too! It has helped us provide a better service to our patients.
"Reports are useful too. Obviously calls are much busier in the morning, and reports provide a useful way to manage staffing levels and groups. We can use them to see the number of calls each staff member deals with on a daily basis. It's nice to have some evidence, and it's easier to manage workload that way."
Our patient's experience has improved greatly: "I have received only one complaint so far since January from someone who couldn't get through on the phone, while previously I might have four to five every single day. Patients are very happy with it. They have the option to press the phone keypad to direct them to the correct group more quickly, so patients like it too. "
The Island Surgery needed to change their phone number, which was initially a concern, but "actually it worked really well because patients were able to dial the previous number for a month. We then sent texts to everybody and put the new number on our website."
Regarding costs, Jackie notes that "it's more expensive than we were paying, but it's worth it because it's transformed the way in which we can manage telephone communications within our practice."
The Island Surgery Says
"The very clear pathway of exactly what was going to happen, plus the support, training and ongoing contact with X-on have all been excellent.
"Everybody says how happy they are with the new phone system as it makes their life at work less stressful.
"Can't imagine how we managed without it!"
Practice and Business Manager
The Island Surgery
For further information on Surgery Connect please call Sales on 0333 332 0000.