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The five-minute practice manager – Don’t do it, delegate it!

by in GP Practice Management

We’ve been thinking about the limits on practice managers’ time, and the impact that the reduction in workload is having on practice teams. Not so long ago, staff had no spare capacity to do anything extra; now we’re in a position where we might have a chance to get ahead of the game. That said, PMs are still short of time, so we’re looking at things you can delegate in under five minutes, which will take your staff only a few hours to complete, and should result in efficiencies going forward. Saves time, money and effort? What’s not to love?

In the first five-minute delegation of our series, we’re looking at a quick-win reception task.

We’ve all been there; you have an urgent need to contact a patient because a test result has come back wildly out of range, only to discover to your dismay that the patient was registered years ago and has no contact phone number listed. It’s also surprising how often you try to call a mobile number and discover it’s a digit short.

Text message blood-test results add another layer of complexity, especially when you have couples who share the same mobile phone.

Reception staff can easily carry out a few phone number audits when they have a spare minute. Between calls and admin, checking a few numbers an hour should be easy to achieve. Though it may seem like a tedious task, it’s important to ensure we can contact patients easily and quickly when needed, and this is a simple way to improve this process.

Over the years, we’ve found that when tasks feel a bit mundane and repetitive, and a group of staff could all complete the same task, a small incentive goes a long way. You might find that your team is receptive to a leader board, with a prize for 1st, 2nd and 3rd (it’s amazing how competitive some staff become over a nice box of chocolates), or if you’re feeling generous, a half-hour early finish.

Finding time to delegate can be difficult, but what seem like small wins can turn into big time-savers in the long term. The pay-offs can be significant, and improved efficiencies in other areas can result in additional scope for delegation. In the coming weeks, we’ll bring you a series of five-minute delegations that might just revolutionise your working life. So please read on…

What: Contact details audit

Who: Reception or Admin team

Resources: To report on:

Patients with no mobile number

Patients with no contact numbers of any sort

Patients with matching mobile numbers

Patients with mobile numbers as home numbers

Benefits: Reduced time to contact patients in the future, reduced postage costs.

How long (estimated): Under 45 minutes per 1,000 patients

Related KLOE: S3 Do staff have all the information they need to deliver safe care and treatment to people?

Patients with no mobile number can be called on their landline to check whether they have a mobile number and to check their other contact details. While they’re on the phone, see if you can sign them up for text messages if they’re not already signed up. This might seem time-consuming but text messages save a lot of time in the longer term.

For patients with no contact number of any kind, check recent hospital or patient correspondence. If there’s still no contact number, check if any details are available on the Spine. If the patient is a child, check for a landline number for a parent/carer registered at the same address. If you’ve been unsuccessful, write to the patient and ask them to provide contact numbers. You do need to be very cautious when taking contact information from another source, so we’d always suggest that you try and call the number before adding it to the records, especially as mobile phone numbers are recycled so frequently.

Text messages sent by practices sometimes contain confidential information, so audit patients with matching numbers, e.g. partners or parents living at the same address. To this end, you should run a report of patients and their mobile numbers and then sort by mobile phone number. You could export the information to MS Excel or a similar programme to achieve this, if you don’t have the facility to do this within your clinical reporting software. Much of this may have been checked in relation to GDPR, but it’s worth repeating the exercise every so often as patients have a habit of finding ways around your carefully crafted systems.

Where patients have mobile phone numbers registered as a home phone number, you can’t send text messages easily, so check home numbers that start with ‘07’. Adding these to the mobile phone field can easily and quickly improve the percentage of patients with mobile phone numbers. This could be achieved by running a report in your clinical system and sorting by home phone number.

Additionally, with many patients now having telephone or e-consultations, for which patients are providing mobile numbers, check whether the patient wants that to be their mobile number on record and then update their information, rather than just adding their mobile number to the appointment information, which helps for that appointment but doesn’t update their record.

Helpful hint: When delegating these tasks, make sure you ask your team to save all their queries until the end, or you may find those knocks on the door becoming more frequent!

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