Exploring the communication challenges of Northern Ireland’s healthcare waiting list & how this can be managed

“The era of static, impersonal patient portals is ending. The next frontier is a healthcare revolution where technology does more than process requests—it understands and empathises, ” Dr. Gege Gatt, CEO, EBO.

A report issued by the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman investigates healthcare waiting list communication in Northern Ireland. In this report, Margaret Kelly, the Public Services Ombudsman, expressed her concerns over patient communication being overlooked. She stated that, ‘the focus of waiting list processes has moved away from being patient-centred. Instead, patients are too often provided with little to no communication on the progress of a fundamental aspect of their lives, leaving them to feel forgotten”. More on this below.

Lack of openness and transparency

The Ombudsman moves on to say that her investigation, ‘identified a lack of openness and transparency in waiting list communications, often resulting in patients/carers being negatively impacted’. In fact responses from a General Public survey show that 42% of patients, ‘indicated they felt unable to request information’ whilst ‘24% indicated that a lack of information led to mismanagement of patients’ care and treatment’. This lead to, “distress, frustration and anxiety’.

Moreover, Kelly states that navigating the Trust’s websites to find information is a complicated task, “with a lack of clarity for patients about where waiting list information could be accessed or who they should contact’.

According to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman Own Initiative report, “24% [of patients] indicated that a lack of information led to mismanagement of patients’ care and treatment.’

Patients left in the dark

The responses gathered from the General Public survey also indicate that patients are often left without a proper explanation for their removal from a waiting list after a Clinical Validation review.

Significant delays

According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), and the Department of Health, ‘nearly 53% of patients waiting for an inpatient or day case admission [in 2023], had been waiting for over 52 weeks’.

How can EBO help?

EBO offers a Conversational AI automation solution for healthcare, built to tackle these administrative issues directly. Here’s how:

Automate patient-facing conversations

At EBO, we revolutionise the way patient-facing tasks are handled by automating repetitive processes that would otherwise burden hundreds of administrative staff. Instead of relying on outdated methods like telephone calls and letters, we use AI automation to streamline communication and eliminate inefficiencies. Not only does this save time and energy for the NHS workforce, but it also plays a crucial role in reducing the significant waiting list backlog.

EBO specializes in developing Virtual Assistants (VA) powered by Conversational AI, serving as the digital front door and initial point of contact for patients. At the core of EBO’s technology is the ability to engage in two-way conversations, allowing patients to easily interact with their Trust. With support for over 100 languages and compatibility across all platforms, patients can conveniently connect with their trust 24/7.

EBO’s intelligent Virtual Assistants go far beyond handling FAQs. EBO’s VA’s have a variety of functionalities, bespoke to a Trust’s needs and requirements. These include but are not limited to:

Waiting List Validation

The VA can land a validated outcome from the conversation as well as enable smart booking of cancelled slots and two-way communication for Patient Initiated Follow Up (PIFU) and SOS Pathways. Find out more about EBO’s Automated Waiting List Validation solution.

Appointment Management

Patients can manage their appointments directly with the Virtual Assistant allowing them to self-serve within minutes.

The result?

A better patient-centric, efficient, accessible and reliable healthcare service that gives patients  control over their healthcare journey and gives staff back precious time.

Curious to know more? Book a call with our Healthcare sales team and we’ll discuss how EBO’s solution can bring you closer to your patients.

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