There's a great way to save admin time at your practice and you've already got everything you need.
A report written by the University of Bradford’s Dr Duncan Petty said that 43 per cent of us are reliant on repeat prescriptions. It's an increasing trend because, as a result of an ageing population, more of us have a long-term illness.
However, we only order 24.8 per cent of our repeat prescriptions online. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm one of those people who takes a paper prescription to their practice each month. I'm aware of the benefits of ordering prescriptions online. It's easier, quicker and more convenient than driving to my practice to drop off a piece of paper. I can be independent and request my repeats at any time of the day, wherever I happen to be. I shop and bank online, so why don't I order my prescriptions? It's because nobody has ever encouraged me to register. I have to do that when I'm at the practice, and there's nothing there to prompt me or tell me what to do.
If you invest a little effort to encourage and help your patients to register for online services you will:
- reduce the number of incoming phone calls
- have fewer people queuing to talk to your receptionists
- process prescription orders in less time
We've spoken with Practice Managers from practices where many patients request their prescriptions online using the Patient Services website. Here's a summary of their advice.
1. Publicise the service
To get as many patients as possible to register for the online service you need to publicise it at every opportunity:
- email footers
- waiting room patient call display boards
- add details to the right-hand side of printed prescriptions
If you use text messages to send reminders or invitations, you can add a note to your templates to ask your patients to order their prescriptions online. You could add the Patient Services website address too so patients can click straight through from their text messages.
2. Help your patients to register
Most patients register without any help, but some will need extra attention. An effective way to do this is to hold clinics at the practice and help your patients complete the registration process.
You can also remind patients about the online help. There's a link at the bottom left corner of the Patient Services website.
Remember that the online world is not for everyone. However, getting more patients online will free up time for you to spend with those who can't or don't want to use online services.
3. Stop taking requests over the phone
Stopping telephone requests for prescriptions will require a fair amount of effort and communication with patients. However, it's an effective way to increase the uptake of online services. We'd suggest you do this over a reasonable time span, in the region of six to nine months. This approach gives you an opportunity to warn patients about the change and give them time to adopt the online process.
You could update the recorded message on your phone system each month to countdown to the cutoff date. Another possibility is to have set times for ordering prescriptions over the phone, and gradually shorten these times.
We asked Leonard Bell, the Office Manager at Meadowbridge Surgery in Carrickfergus, what he'd say to practices that aren't using the service. This is his reply:
"You should definitely use it. It's a really easy bit of technology to use, and it cuts down on a lot of the orders brought to the reception desk. That means less work to do in the back office. Yes, there's set up time, and yes there's time that you need to invest in registering patients to use the service. However, when that work is done, it's done. There's no reason not to use it."
Most GP practices offer online services, but few embrace the potential that it has to save time. Prescription requests are one part of the story. Online appointment booking is another opportunity to save time, and your patients will think it's great too. You need to encourage your patients to register. The advice in this blog will help you know where to start.
For me, I should practise what I preach, so it's time to visit my practice and register. No excuses!