In 2019/20, NHS England saw pressure on outpatient services peak at 124.9 million appointments. This number had been growing annually before seeing an inevitable downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand is now growing steadily again, and managing capacity and improving efficiency are required more than ever to tackle recovery. This challenge needs solutions that make outpatient pathways function seamlessly and smoothly for patients and staff while balancing a diverse range of demands, whether it be the availability of people, medical supplies, facilities, equipment, or information.
Whilst hospitals organise much of their operational demands via software, currently queue management is largely paper-based which can be inefficient and provide a poor patient experience.
DASHclinic is a software platform that digitises the healthcare clinic queue management system. It supports patients and gives clinicians and managers real-time information on clinic patient lists and the status of individual patients. Enhanced functionality to support patients as they move along their outpatient pathway will be added as part of the next stage of development. The data collected by the tool can also be analysed and used to create smarter and more efficient scheduling and provide a smoother patient experience whilst freeing up staff time.
DASHclinic was designed by Dr Jim Gray (also lead clinician on this project) and reflected his own clinical experience of the current paper-based outpatient management systems.
DASHclinic was borne out of layers of frustration. Patients worldwide sit unacknowledged in waiting rooms, waiting for clinicians disabled by systems, frustrating managers keen to drive targets. Digital adoption has seen poorly designed tools that are stealing time, not healing it. By disrupting the traditional queue and building a human centred approach, we create time, valuable to all. Time is our most critical asset; it underpins the design and delivery of value. Wasting it is not an opportunity, yet managing it creates opportunity”.
DASHclinic received support for an early-stage pilot project as part of the Global Digital Exemplar programme, jointly funded by NHS Digital with matched funding from the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It was integrated into the trauma and orthopaedic (TO) outpatient clinic at the Luton & Dunstable University Hospital (LDH) and became operational in May 2022.
Eastern AHSN supported the rapid real-world validation of the pilot to quantify the need, evaluate the project’s approach and understand DASHclinics’s impact and potential for scaling across other services and NHS providers. This study was undertaken by Cranfield University.
The rapid real-world validation confirmed both the need and potential value of a digital solution to improve the efficiency in managing the patient flow across the outpatient pathway. Using the software, staff were able to identify bottlenecks in services delivery which presented opportunities to improve efficiency, as well as understanding how consultants’ time was used. It also enabled staff to compare different clinics to identify best practice. Staff feedback was positive.
reported DASHclinic as user friendly
reported that DASHclinic is a good replacement for paper1
The study suggested a route map for further prototype development with insights and recommendations to support staff engagement in the transition from a paper based to digitally enabled queue management system.
Speaking about DASHclinic, Professor John Erkoyuncu (Cranfield University) said:
“This project has successfully confirmed a need and a feasible digital solution in the form of DASHclinic to effectively use patient flow related data to improve outpatient queue management. Our study identified the potential for this digital solution to bring tangible benefits to patients, staff, and the NHS more widely in the form of improved efficiency and patient satisfaction with lessons learnt to help inform the next stages of platform development.”
If you want to discuss this project or piloting DASHclinic in your area, please contact Georgianna Coote, [email protected].