Willow Green Surgery service over 10,000 patients in East Preston, West Sussex providing comprehensive NHS primary care services to help manage patient health and well-being for their older demographic.
Like so many practices at the advent of the pandemic, Willow Green Surgery realised they urgently need to upgrade their telephony to accommodate a new way of working. Dieter Gomm, IT Administrator, was part of the team that knew they had "to go to telephone triage first; all of a sudden it's the sheer quantity of calls that you have to make."
"Our telephone system at the time just couldn't cope. It was an analogue system, and there's only so many lines. It just couldn't match the need. I can remember one day phoning our telephone supplier because we had a fault, and a receptionist answered the phone 'Oh, I'm so sorry, there's no-one available in support right now.' At that point I'd had enough!"
Dieter approached the practice partners and suggested the practice urgently needed to upgrade its patient communications.
"After doing a fair bit of research, and putting out for tender, I came across Surgery Connect, and I have to say the information on your website is absolutely superb. Ultimately your website sold it to me. You were saying everything that you could do. And the phone system, what we got was what you said on the tin, and to me, it's worth every single penny."
Dieter was initially concerned about the move to a cloud based system, but the features persuaded him and the team that Surgery Connect would provide the telephony they needed: "for me, the unlimited phone lines, that was unquestionably what we needed. The ability for everyone to be able to make a phone call at the same time, and not to have engaged tones on our phone lines. I can't imagine our poor patients, what they were going through at the beginning of the pandemic, because all of a sudden our phone calls nearly doubled, and of course, all they were getting were engaged tones.
"Surgery Connect got rid of the engaged tones plus added a lot more bells and whistles; a lot of unexpected features." X-flow allows users to simply drag and drop icons to create the ideal practice call flow. "I love technology and I could probably spend hours on X-flow. I just love X-flow. We've got all sorts of different lines and so on, and can control the call flow even down to the simple little things."
The pandemic meant a lot of changes: "We had to change everything, even down to registration. We put our registration forms on the Internet. and had 'press one for registration information', and then 'if you are calling from a mobile phone and would like a text message with a link, please press one again' and then the phone system sends them a text message with a link to our website to register. They didn't need to speak to someone. It's crazy. I loved it!
"The phone system is user friendly, so user-friendly that by the time the trainer came I had already set it up. Obviously there were a couple of tips and hints that he gave, but that's how user friendly your system is; I could literally just set it all up myself."
Surgery Connect includes the ability for staff to work remotely, with the patient experience being identical. Dieter describes how patient contact was affected for one of the Doctor partners who was pregnant and needed to work from home "right at the beginning of the pandemic using her mobile phone. That was becoming troublesome because she was calling from a withheld line, so lots of patients weren't answering." With the introduction of Surgery Connect, the practice provided her with a headset and laptop and "it was like she was working in the surgery; with the quick dial numbers where you could just pick up the phone, dial her three digit extension number, and you're talking to her as if she was in her office. Fantastic!"
Out of Hours
"We also have an out of hours service for care homes. Previously we had an old mobile phone, that they were passing from GP to GP; now the GPs have their own extension number for the weekend hours, and the calls transfer to their personal mobile, so they can carry on with normal day-to-day life, knowing that if they're needed they can be reached."
Surgery Connect seamlessly integrates with the major clinical systems, including SystmOne. Dieter recalls their previous clinical system: "we had one previously on our old phone system, which our reception team point blank refused to use, because it was archaic." And the difference after the switch: "For me it was like Christmas, I can happily say that every single receptionist is happy using it, is confident in using it, understands how it works. It makes their lives easier.
"When you answer a telephone call and the system is confident it knows who that patient is, it just loads up their record. When you are answering call after call on a Monday morning, it is a game changer, because you have the confidence to start looking through the record while the patient is introducing themselves. The integration allowed the productivity of the receptionists to go up, because they're answering more calls given there's less time spent trying to find those patients. It is indeed a game changer."
Surgery Connect advises patients that they are in a queue and regularly updates them with queue position and any other information the practice has added. Additionally Patient Callback allows patients to elect to be called back when they in effect reach the top of the queue, rather than having to hold. "The patients are a lot friendlier now because they have an understanding where they are in the queue. And if they've opted for Patient Callback, we call them back and they're actually a lot calmer because they didn't have to wait."
Changing The Way We Work
"Surgery Connect has allowed us to really change the way we work; we now have departments. So we have a meds management team, we have an administration team, the secretaries have their own phone lines as well. These are all little hidden extras that we hadn't necessarily thought about at the time of getting Surgery Connect, but now has allowed us to expand what we have to offer. The patients are going directly to the people that they really need to speak to, which is also bringing down all the call wait times."
"We have a senior partner who's now retired, but still comes back to us regularly. He always was a key focal point in our technology, upgrading the systems and making sure we are the best that we could be. He introduced the click-to-dial system, the patient integration system, that we had previously. It was on a computer in the surgery, but it made itself extinct because no one could be bothered to turn on the computer. With the integration that Surgery Connect has, click-to-dial is on each individual computer. The senior partner is in awe of your system and on the back of that, he thinks I'm incredible too, because I found this system!
"Also the ability to send a quick text message if you need to, it's all there on the patient record."
"Quite often patients are just looking for information and if you can work out the most regular information they are looking for, you can then add those options in." For example Dieter described how a patient looking for medication might be handled: "Patients can't order online because it requires an update. So you add the option 'press five for more information', and then include 'If you're looking for medication information press one'. And at the end of the information 'If you still need to speak to someone, please press one.'
"If I see abandoned calls on the user console, that's patients that didn't need to speak to someone because they found the information they needed. It's freeing the reception team, because the phone system is dealing with those phone calls itself."
Surgery Connect is deployed across three data sites ensuring industry leading uptime. Should a customer practice experience some kind of local failure all calls can be diverted to backup mobiles. Recently Willow Green Surgery experienced "a major power failure, it took out quite a big chunk of the area. Computers shut down, phone lines shut down, everything shut down. The receptionists went into their drawers, picked up the mobile phones, switched them on, and they started ringing, so we had continuity. I logged on via my mobile phone, was able to update X-flow to put a message on there saying, 'Please be aware, we are currently dealing with a power failure. We may be unable to help you.' Your whole system is working like a dream."
"I found the whole process of talking to X-on for support a breeze; going from our previous supplier, with no support there at all, to always having someone there. Every time I've messaged they've replied within the hour.
"We desperately needed something and you guys absolutely dug us out of a humongous great big hole. You managed to install it during the pandemic, everything was safe, everything was by the book; you guys came in and literally overnight it was done. We were sold!
"I'm very excited to see what the future holds with X-on as every integration we get, every little bit extra, is a bonus. It's not changing our contract, it's still the same price as every update is free."
Willow Green Surgery Says
"You guys have an incredible product, it's as simple as that.
"What you advertise on the website comes through, but actually it's only when you start playing with it that you realise there's so much more.
"Everything that was promised was delivered."
Willow Green Surgery
For further information on Surgery Connect please call Sales on 0333 332 0000.