GP surgeries are looking into conducting telephone triage sessions to bring workloads back to a manageable level

Telephone Triage

Reducing Workloads

It is common knowledge that GP surgeries are dealing with ever increasing demands on their staff's time, yet the simple answer that organisations in many sectors can turn to is often not an option for those in the healthcare business. GP surgeries cannot simply hire more staff to handle growing numbers of patients; the resources aren't available. Instead, practice managers are turning to new ways of ensuring that patient service reaches the highest possible standards.

Triage by phone

Clear communications are at the heart of handling the growing pressures on GPs and their reception teams and one particular area that is presenting challenges is triage. Many patients who want to arrange an appointment will not necessarily need close medical attention while others might need to be seen urgently. In the search for a solution to manage these time-intensive sessions, several GP surgeries are looking into conducting telephone triage sessions to bring workloads back to a manageable level. The advantages of this approach are clear to see, but there can be limitations imposed by technology.

The number of inbound enquiries that a reception team has to deal with can be drastically reduced by being able to prioritise those in the queue via a sophisticated phone system. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, practices can make sure that those in most urgent need of attention are supported first and not subjected to waiting in a long queue when time is of the essence. Secondly, those patients enquiring about symptoms that are not serious and can be treated with widely available medicines, are quickly taken out of the queue to improve the experience for others. However, setting up an effective telephone triage system is reliant upon a few key factors.

Setting the scene

The solution to overloaded triage sessions can be a costly exercise if the surgery in question does not have a suitable telephony agreement in place. For many, locked into long-term contracts with expensive call costs, telephone triage will be difficult if not impossible to accommodate. The best approach for practice managers to take is to seek out a deal that provides them with a fixed fee model, first. This will allow them to control costs while making a greater number of outbound calls than was previously ever the case for a GP surgery.

Further to controlling expenditure, practices must overcome the practical issue of having enough lines to make multiple outbound calls on fixed line legacy systems. Implementing telephone triage will require surgeries to increase the number of outbound calls made quite significantly and this needs to be accounted for by the phone systems currently in place. We recently heard from a surgery where one GP made calls to patients on a mobile to ensure that they received the attention they deserved. This is clearly unsustainable and the priority for any practice manager considering the introduction of telephone triage would be to adopt a fixed cost model that gives them the foundations for managing their workload more effectively. Attempting to take this new approach without laying the requisite building blocks could result in surgeries incurring greater costs. If the process is properly administered however, practices stand to take huge leaps forward in the way they handle increasing demand for their services.

For more information on the Surgery Connect Telephone Triage facility contact Sales on 0333 332 0000.