Matt wrote a few weeks ago about the areas we’re looking at in alpha, and high on the list was booking. We’ve spent a few weeks looking at this, and I thought I’d write up some of our thoughts on this.
Obviously one of the common areas across health is the act of booking an appointment. Whether it’s with a GP, a nurse or another clinician, bookings are largely handled through non-digital channels.
We focused initially on booking appointments at GP practices. We started talking to practice managers, GPs, and receptionists, as well as patients. This gave us a feel for how the booking process works from a patient’s point of view, and also from the point of view of the people who are taking the bookings.
We started sketching prototypes and mapping the journey, and pretty quickly came up with some ideas as to the sort of services that would be useful to build.
A consistent way of booking
The demo is here, if you want to try it out. Before you click around, there are two important caveats.
First, the alpha was about challenging some of our assumptions about how healthcare works. Some of the findings seem obvious, but it’s really valuable to get this from professionals all over the system.
Secondly, we’re trying to build some prototypes to illustrate a vision, not trying to solve booking right now. If we were, we’d be doing supplier engagement and much more in-depth research. We’re aware that some of our prototypes don’t work in the same way as current GP booking systems operate. That is because we are deliberately imagining what could be possible in future.
Some thoughts then;
- We’re firmly focused on the patient-facing system, rather than the back office system – we’re not trying to get into competing with existing GP IT suppliers. We believe there is value in patients having a consistent experience regardless of where they live, or what kind of healthcare provider they’re booking with. A consistent experience would be a good foundation to build on too.
- Under the hood it should integrate with existing systems – (or, as our colleagues over the river might say, Do The Hard Work To Make It Simple) we need something that integrates with booking system suppliers, built using the kind of standards introduced by things like GPSOC.
- Scheduling at surgeries is a hugely complex area – partly through design and partly through accident, there are a huge number of ways that surgeries schedule activity. That’s another reason that a full end-to-end booking platform wouldn’t be the right direction for the project.
- A big list of open slots might not be helpful – our idea is that people might appreciate some ‘guided choice’ when booking, rather than just being shown a full list of appointments. We wanted to build something that acts a little bit like the receptionist does when you go in face to face or on the phone, so you have the potential to tailor what you want (‘I’d prefer an evening appointment/an early morning appointment/I’d really just see a female doctor’, etc) As always, this needs to be tested with users. Another idea was that the booking service can remember a user’s booking preferences, so if a user has a long-standing medical condition, and has regular telephone appointments, the booking service can remember this previous behaviour, and start by showing the user the soonest telephone appointment with their regular doctor.
We’re taking the booking prototype in for another round of user research this week, but after that we’re moving on to focus on a different area. We’re happy with the kind of vision it demonstrates for the Alpha, and it provides a bit of a taster of what could be done in this area.
If you have any thoughts while using the demo, please let us know in the comments below, or by emailing us.