A booking platform for visiting inpatient wards at the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 visitors to inpatient wards had to be reduced to protect staff and patients. As infection control measures eased in April 2021, visitors were able to enter hospital facilities to see their families.
To follow national infection control policies, all visitors had to take a lateral flow test and complete a COVID-19 screening questionnaire before their visit.
The number of visitors and the times they could visit were restricted to maintain social distancing and avoid burdening staff. There were just a few slots available each day.
Nurses and clinical staff struggled to coordinate visits by phone whilst also capturing information from screening forms.
The process was a poor experience for patients. It was time-consuming, created more administrative work and duplicated efforts.
Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals wanted to create a booking system and automate online COVID-19 screening forms for visitors. This would allow visitors to book their visits online, with reminders to complete their COVID-19 screening form 24 hours before their visit.
Solution and impact
The hospital used the Microsoft Bookings app to create a booking system for visitors to inpatient wards.
The project was first piloted in an acute ward in the transplant unit at Harefield Hospital. Matrons and nurses used to spend roughly 7 hours each week arranging visits. This included 2 telephone calls for each patient. 1 call was to arrange the visiting slot and another to complete the COVID-19 screening form 24 hours before their visit.
Through the new system, the clinical team sends a link by email or text to the booking platform and information about how to access a lateral flow test.
Visitors can see a calendar with available dates and times for visiting. Once they have booked a slot, confirmation is sent to both the visitors and staff, and the booking is added to the shared calendar.
Visitors also receive an automated email with a link to the online COVID-19 screening form, with reminders to complete it 24 hours before their visit. Their responses are visible in a shared Microsoft Excel document on Microsoft Teams.
The system uses apps that are freely available within Microsoft 365. This includes:
- Microsoft Bookings
- Microsoft Forms
- Microsoft Teams
- Microsoft Outlook
In many cases, staff are already familiar with these apps.
The system is highly customisable to each ward’s requirements. Wards can customise the:
- date and times of visiting slots
- length of time slots
- number of visitors allowed per day
The booking’s page and form can be completed on a computer, tablet or mobile phone.
From the moment the link to book a slot is sent, the whole process is automated and no extra communication is needed.
The apps offer:
- a system to schedule and manage appointments
- an online area where staff can manage schedules, reminders, specify services and assign staff to the shared calendar
- a service for visitors to reschedule and cancel appointments
- access to all employees and visitor information from a computer, tablet or mobile phone
The platform is being rolled out to 11 eligible wards across sites.
Key figures and quotes
The new system helped to release approximately 7 hours every week of nurses’ time as they had less admin to do.
95% of visitors said the booking system and the online screening form were easy to use.
“The nurses are very happy. It really has improved this service for visitors. We have less workload and less stress carrying out bookings and doing the screening forms”
Helen Doyle, Transplant Unit Matron, Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals
Alex Traynor, Darwin Business Intelligence Analyst, Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals
Maria Vales, Transformation Lead, Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals
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