We don't advocate a big bang approach to launching PATCHS at your practice (though of course you can still do that if you want!). We know you may want to try PATCHS a bit first before getting others in your practice on board, and you may even need to do that to persuade your colleagues it's a good idea. Our research tells us the following steps are most effective at getting up and running:
Before launch day
- Choose a 'go live' date. Decide on a date when you want to start using PATCHS. We recommend choosing a date in 2-3 weeks' time so you can get everything else ready and give patients plenty of notice.
- Choose a 'PATCHS GP Champion' and a 'PATCHS Receptionist Champion'. These two will act as champions for PATCHS and be responsible for it in the practice from the clinical and non-clinical sides. Both should be enthusiastic and able to influence others in the practice - a GP partner and reception supervisor are ideal. Ideally, both should work in the practice most days of the week so they can help other members of staff if they get stuck. If one is part-time, it would help to have another PATCHS champion available on the days they don't work at the practice.
- Get the Champions to tell everyone at your practice about the benefits of using PATCHS. To get them supportive of you using it.
- Get as many staff at your practice as possible to use PATCHS using a dummy patient account. This is so they can see how useful it is, and understand what it looks like from a patients' point of view. It also checks PATCHS works OK with your existing clinical systems. You can do this by signing up to PATCHS as a patient at your practice using the details of one of your dummy patients. You should use an email address for that patient you can access so you can validate the account. There's more information on how to sign up as a patient here.
- Put the PATCHS banner on your website. So that patients know how to access PATCHS at your practice. But remember to only make this visible on launch day - otherwise patients could start submitting requests before then!
- Block appointments on the PATCHS GP Champion's appointment calendar from launch day onwards. This is to ensure there is enough time allocated for them to deal with any PATCHS requests that come through. If you don't block time out we find that GPs try to squeeze the work in when they can, increasing stress levels, and patients not getting a good service. A good number to start with is 3 or 5 appointments per session. We recommend blocking out the first appointments of each session (rather than the last) to remind the GP they may get requests coming through at any time during the session, so they can review them ASAP. To block out the appointments, you should keep them there but literally write 'PATCHS' in them so everyone knows what they're for and that they shouldn't be used for anything else.
- Limit the number of requests you receive through PATCHS. This is to make sure the PATCHS GP Champion doesn't receive more requests than they have capacity to deal with. Initially, the limit should match the number of appointments that have been blocked in the appointment calendar.
- Make the PATCHS banner visible on your website. So patients can start using PATCHS. You should ask the person who looks after your practice website to do this for you.
- The PATCHS Receptionist Champion should start directing patients to use PATCHS and monitor the Unassigned Inbox. The rest of the reception team can work the way they normally do - the idea is to just get a few patients using PATCHS so you can see how it works in your practice. We have a script receptionists can use to encourage patients to use PATCHS.
- The PATCHS GP Champion should monitor their Personal Inbox. The rest of the clinical team can continue working as they normally do.
- Follow the Key Principles of using PATCHS. These are important to ensure that both staff and patients have a great experience using PATCHS and want to continue using it.
After launch day
- Get more colleagues using PATCHS. After using PATCHS for a while (say 2-3 weeks), the PATCHS Champions will hopefully have seen the benefits of using PATCHS, and you will have seen some positive feedback from patients. Once the Champions have proven PATCHS can work, it will be easier to persuade your other colleagues to start using it too. We've seen benefits with all types of staff members using PATCHS, including receptionists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, advanced practitioners, support workers, secretaries, IAPT practitioners...
- Increase the number of requests you receive through PATCHS. Once you have more staff available to use PATCHS you can start increasing your request limit to match the capacity you have available. Remember, it's important to continue to block out sufficient time for each clinician that uses PATCHS for them to deal with the requests they are assigned.
- Promote PATCHS to more of your patients to encourage them to use it. We have a number of successful strategies you can follow to do this.