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Putting outpatient follow-ups in the hands of patients

24 May 2022

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A new digital platform has been launched by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to make it easier for patients to request outpatient follow-up appointments when they need one.

The Trust is working with digital partners to change the way we deliver outpatient care to better suit patients and carers.

Across outpatient services, departments across NNUH are putting follow-ups in our patients’ hands so that they can arrange a follow-up appointment as and when they need it, rather than at routine intervals. The move to patient initiated follow-up (PIFU) outpatient appointments aims to free up clinicians’ time for new appointments, diagnostics and procedures and patients who need us the most.

The new platform will enable patients to request a follow-up appointment, if they need one, via the DrDoctor platform by entering their name, date of birth and postcode and enables teams at NNUH to send appointment messages via text, email or letter.

Dr Ed Prosser-Snelling, NNUH Chief Clinical Information Officer, said: “We are delighted to be launching this new digital platform, which makes it easier for patients to request an outpatient follow-up when they need one. It is an additional tool for our hospital departments to manage follow-ups. In time this will open the door for patients to have much more control over the management of their own health.  We can use structured questionnaires to make sure that doctors and patients can work together to make sure that decisions can be shared.”

DrDoctor already operates across more than 30 NHS Trusts. Patients who require an essential follow-up will not be placed on this pathway.

Chris Cobb, NNUH Chief Operating Officer, said: “This is an exciting change to the way we deliver outpatient care to better suit our patients’ lives and empowers them to book follow-up appointments when they need them. By providing earlier expert advice and reducing unnecessary appointments, we will have more time to see patients who need us most and means we’ll be able to see patients sooner if they have a flare up of their condition and need an appointment.”

What is a Patient Initiated Follow Up (PIFU)?

You may previously have had pre-arranged follow up appointments with your doctor even when your symptoms were under control. It is likely these appointments were face-to-face in a hospital or clinic. If your clinician thinks you are suitable for a PIFU pathway, you will be informed and asked to arrange an appointment only if you need one.

Your clinician will tell you what symptoms or complications to look out for that would mean you should ask for an appointment, for example if your symptoms return, become more difficult to manage, or you need specialist advice. They will also provide you with the information on how to contact the service to arrange this if you need to. We then may offer you a remote appointment over the phone or by video rather than a face-to-face appointment, but only if it is necessary and appropriate for your care.

Sometimes, regular outpatient appointments may not result in any change to your treatment. In fact, your condition may flare up in between regular booked appointments and it is during this time that you really do need our input. PIFU will put you in control of making an appointment when you need it the most.

This new service allows us to:

  • Give you more choice over your time, care, and experience
  • Ensure you have access to your care team if your condition flares up
  • Ensure you are coming to hospital only when you really need to
  • Limit the stress of attending hospital (taking off work, travelling, and waiting)
  • More control over your follow-ups, making them more personalised and tailored to your personal needs and circumstances, including an opportunity for video or telephone consultations, if appropriate.

For more information, visit www.nnuh.nhs.uk/patients-visitors/outpatient-appointments/

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