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In the first of our series of blogs celebrating our 2022 Best Practice Award winners, we speak to the team at Guy’s Hospital who won the award for their pioneering work supporting rheumatology patients digitally.

Before the pandemic, the rheumatology team at Guy’s Hospital were looking at ways of using technology to make the best use of resources, optimise the value of appointments and improve patient access.

Dr Toby Garrood, consultant rheumatologist at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, led the project. “We were getting hundreds of patients leaving messages on the helpline each month,” he explained. “We’d phone them back, but they might not answer, then they’d phone us back and leave another message. It’s an inefficient use of hospital time and is inconvenient for the patient too.”

The team started working with patients to design an online system to ensure they could access support when needed most and at a time that suited them. The team didn’t realise that an online way of working was going to prove essential once the pandemic hit.

The project developed into three elements:

  • an online booking system which allows patients to specify a date and time to be contacted by a nurse. This has reduced missed calls from around 20% to 4%
  • a digital pre-appointment questionnaire for new patients to fill in about their symptoms, allowing doctors to identify any issues, including broader health concerns, and make sure they get the right treatment as quickly as possible
  • a remote monitoring platform that enables regular tracking of patients’ symptoms over time, allowing more flexible and targeted care.

The three interconnected elements make it easy for patients to go online, book appointments for urgent advice, and let the rheumatology team keep track and spot any issues early.

Dr Garrood said that these digital solutions help the team to put resources where it’s needed most. “Because we’re tracking the progress of our patients, it means we only see them when it’s really needed,” he said. “When we do see them, we have a map of their disease and their experience.”

The team won the Best Practice Award for their innovation in driving forward patient care.

Ali Rivett, BSR's Chief Executive and awards judge, said: “This an outstanding example of best practice driven by the unmet needs of patients. The team had patients at the centre of designing the project and our judging panel felt this could be adopted more widely across the NHS.”

On the award win, Dr Garrood said: “This has been a team effort and we’re excited to have been recognised. Our project highlights how people can work in new ways to deliver great care. This award helps us to share what we’ve learnt so it can help others looking to implement a digital way of working.”

The team now has more funding to build on these projects by refining them. They’re working on a set of filters that will personalise each patient’s outcome, such as sending an email, putting them through to admin teams or letting them book an online appointment.

Congratulations to the team on their well-deserved award. We’re showcasing the work of each of our Best Practice Award winners in this series of blogs.