If your area is thinking of implementing a telephone Advice & Guidance system to cut down on unnecessary patient referrals / admissions, there tend to be 4 key stakeholder groups that need convincing: the CCG, the Hospital Trust, the consultants and the GPs. This article is the first in a series that sets out to answer the most commonly asked questions for each group.
Today, answers to questions commonly posed by CCGs:
Our existing Advice & Guidance services aren’t well used, why should this be different?
There are 3 answers to this:
- Answer rate – if consultants don’t answer the phone, GPs won’t call. Most “Consultant of the Week”, “On Call Consultant” and similar services struggle to achieve an answer rate of 30%. Consultant Connect’s approach achieves an 80 – 90% pickup rate across the country.
- Speed – spoken conversations are immediate and allow the speediest communication, as opposed to written or text services that can take days or weeks to get a response. Many GPs using Consultant Connect call whilst their patient is still with them, allowing them to conclude a care episode there and then.
- Service – as well as providing the system, we ensure it gets used. We offer continuing communication and engagement work with both GPs and consultants as standard, ensuring that 90% of practices will have used the system and 90% of consultants will have answered a call within 3 months of the system launching.
What are the most important indicators of a successful project?
We believe that the most critical measure is the answer rate – if the answer rate is high, all other indicators tend to be very positive: utilisation rates, impact on activity, feedback from users.
Of course, a high answer rate is the most difficult thing to achieve. The Consultant Connect system plus the engagement work we do with consultants is what makes our answer rate so high.
Won’t Trusts be against this because they stand to lose revenue if they avoid unnecessary referrals?
Whilst it is true in most cases that hospitals receive payment for each referral they deal with, unnecessary referrals are in nobody’s interest. They contribute to waiting times and missed targets, potentially opening Trusts up to financial penalties much larger than the money they receive for unnecessary referrals.
Many hospitals are now under extreme pressure to meet targets. Although in the longer term Consultant Connect contributes to reduced activity, in the short term the project affects the waiting list and allows Trusts to manage demand more effectively in areas where they may have struggled in the past.
How do we get the local Trust(s) on board?
There are a number of ways to do this and this is somewhere Consultant Connect can help by giving demonstrations and attending meetings.
The most common way of getting support from the Trust is to convince the Medical Director, COO and / or CEO. They will then ensure that enthusiasm is communicated to specialty teams, who are encouraged to engage with the project.
Another approach is to identify individual specialty teams that are keen to try a systematic approach to telephone Advice & Guidance and use their enthusiasm to convince senior management to try the system out. Ideal teams are those which have historically struggled to deal with demand and which are open to new ways of working.
A lot of CCGs think that it is up to them to get the Trust on board – but we suggest that you include Consultant Connect in these meetings and discussions. We are able to share information on how the system is working in practice in other areas as well as providing contacts from other Trusts.
How do we get the consultant teams on board?
Once we are given the go ahead, Consultant Connect works with the Trust and the individual teams to get consultants onto the system ready to take calls from GPs.
Do we have to pay the Trust for their consultants’ time?
Not normally for a pilot period.
The most common arrangement is to run a 6 or 12 month pilot first, during which the CCG will most likely pay for the Consultant Connect service and the Trust will not charge for consultants answering the phone. After that period, both CCG and Trust have a clearer picture of how the system works and how it fits in the service offered by the Trust. We can advise on what is happening in other parts of the country.
What specialties should we launch with?
We will work with CCG, Trust and consulting teams to help decide this. The usual criteria tend to be:
- What are Consultant Connect’s top performing specialties nationwide – which specialties tend to avoid the most unnecessary trips to hospital?
- Is the specialty under pressure locally with long waiting lists or failure to meet targets?
- Is it felt that there are a high proportion of unnecessary referrals?
- Are there local staffing / resourcing issues current or predicted?
- Is the team keen to improve, including exploring new ways of working?
From our experience, we would always prioritise enthusiastic teams. There is no greater guarantee of success than a committed and motivated specialty team.
How long before we can have the system running in our area?
It takes two weeks for Consultant Connect to launch a project. If we receive the go ahead on Monday, the system can be live and calls being answered two Mondays later.
The only thing that tends to add to this time is if consulting teams need more time to get on board. We issue a launch plan and set a realistic launch date based on how advanced discussions are with specialty teams. The launch plan is then reviewed daily and any changes communicated to stakeholders.
How much does it cost?
This depends on how many patients are in the area you want covered by the service plus your specific requirements – please get in touch if you would like to know more.
Do you work for a CCG? Are there any other questions you have? If so, please get in touch on 01865 261451 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be pleased to answer.