Two years since the first national lockdown, Kevin Nutt, founder of Mjog, reflects on the use of messaging services in General Practice during the pandemic, and discusses how batch appointment reminders have helped to transform the way we communicate with patients today.
The impact of Covid-19 has meant that being messaged by your practice has become a much more acceptable way of communicating – even by the older generation. From what we have seen at Mjog, many people have become a lot more receptive to receiving advice via text messaging than before the COVID-19 outbreak.
During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, we worked with our primary care customers to ensure they kept in contact with patients via batch messaging. In the early days, we supported practices in quickly getting the message out that patients should not visit the practice unless absolutely necessary. It was the first time we’ve seen mass healthcare information provided through a text message, and we sent out approximately 65 million messages in just one month.
As time went on, we worked with practices to ensure they were keeping in contact with patients, particularly those most vulnerable, and those who simply couldn’t miss a regular check-up.
Between the patient messaging providers within primary care, there has been a significant change in attitude towards messaging. We’ve worked closely with GPs to show them how it is a useful communications tool.
Today, we are seeing a much greater use of mass communication from practice to patient. Practices are not just using batch messaging for things like flu campaigns, it is also being used to contact people who have long-term chronic illnesses, and for information about the practice itself.
Appointment reminders are flexible and customisable for the needs of each practice, and you can set different reminders for each patient, clinic and appointment type. Messaging systems can also handle large amounts of patient data with ease. You can even schedule messages up to a year in advance – a great way to save time and get ahead during quieter periods.
Post-COVID momentum – clear, consistent comms
Thanks to the huge investment in the NHS app, patients are beginning to use this resource for their appointment information, and their medication. They are even using the app to help manage their care. Patients of all ages and backgrounds are now really seeing and feeling the benefits of digital communications with their GP, their NHS Trust and healthcare professionals across the board. The culture is certainly shifting, and we are confident that, in time, this will help to alleviate some of the pressure on primary care providers, while of course, helping to improve a patient’s experience and their outcomes.
As part of the drive to keep momentum, it is vital that we continue to promote messaging as an effective communication tool. One of the ways we do this is by continuing to utilise these digital tools for clear and consistent communication. Yes, patients can now once again visit their practice, and GPs can carry out face-to-face appointments, but we mustn’t revert back to relying on the telephone at the front desk for all external comms. Different tools are at our disposal, it is up to us to make good use of them.
We believe that practice staff naturally see the benefits of using services and tools that Mjog provide, but more work needs to be done to educate the benefits of these innovations to patients. It is vital that we as providers continue to build on the confidence and trust that has been created in the patient community during the pandemic, and we are continuing to work with practices to do just that.