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What are the Best Practice Guidelines?

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iPLATO is committed to innovation in health services to support GPs, CCGs and Patients but strongly believes that this can never be at the expense of the protection of the data upon which such innovations depend.

Patient safety and Information Governance is at the centre of everything we do. All our products and services meet or exceed best practice in information governance and data protection concerns.

It is particularly important to us that how data is used is clear to everyone. Most surgeries already have operational processes for collecting and/or modifying patient communication details and preferences (e.g phone calls, letters, emails, text messages, video/Skype calls etc).

We deal with patient communication preferences and opt-out for SMS Messages as follows:

  1. During service launch we modify the launch process to take account of any recorded patient preferences that a GP surgery may have pertaining to individual patients.
  2. During service operation iPLATO Connect has functionality to include/exclude patients who withdraw or modify their communication preference re SMS messaging.
  3. In those ‘rare’ occasions we come across a surgery who does not operate systems/processes to record and manage patient communication preferences we always recommend the adoption of such processes and provide surgeries with general guidance on the topic.

Expanding on the above our recommended Best Practice’ Guidelines for GP Surgeries are as follows:

Recognising Existing Patient Communication Preferences

If surgeries maintain details of patient communication preferences and these preferences include details about patients who do NOT wish to be contacted by SMS then these existing patient preferences can be incorporated into the patient phonebook setup in iPLATO Connect so that relevant patients can be opted out prior to launch.

The iPLATO launch manager can facilitate iPLATO technical support to assist with bulk opt-out if required.

Welcome Message to All Patients

All patients should be sent an introductory message advising them of the ‘new’ SMS service. This ‘informs’ all existing patients with a mobile number about the service and provides an opportunity to ‘Opt-Out’ before commencement, if desired.

This also has the ancillary benefit of ‘cleansing’ the existing database records of invalid mobile numbers. Template messages are provided by iPLATO although surgeries may adapt the content as they see fit.

Please Note: surgeries may wish to consider alternative methods of informing patients sharing the same mobile phone number.

New or Modified Patients (EXPLICIT CONSENT MODEL)

After service launch the practice staff should make a defined effort to advise patients that if supplying their mobile number to the surgery then it may be used to contact them via SMS.

If consent is given, then the mobile number is collected and stored; If consent is withheld the patient must be opted out from iPLATO.

General System Usage

i. Sensitive Data Use professional reasoning and judgement when contacting patients by SMS. Withhold personal information that is unnecessary to the meaning of a message and avoid sending text messages that could be embarrassing or distressing to the intended recipient.

ii. Use of Opt-out Functionality The iPLATO service contains a simple facility to ‘Opt-out’ a patient from receiving any SMS messages from the system. Any patient requests to ‘Opt-out’ should be actioned immediately.

iii. Updating Patient Records All users of the iPLATO system receive regular automated reports of all ‘Expired’ and ‘Failed’ numbers which allows the surgeries to update their patient records in a timely fashion. Surgeries should ensure that regular processes are in place to collect, update and maintain patient contact details, particularly mobile numbers.

On-going Promotion of Service

After service launch the practice should ensure a pro-active approach to advertise the existence and benefits of the service to patients. Patient awareness is a valuable tool in ensuring rapid uptake of the service. It also provides patients with the on-going choice to ‘Opt-out’ of the service at any time.

The following are all practical examples of different methods of publicising the service by the surgery:

  • Waiting room posters (available from iPLATO).
  • Information on surgery web-site.
  • Notification messages on general and specific surgery correspondence i.e. prescriptions and general letters to patients (messages can be inserted into document headers and footers).
  • News releases for local media and practice newsletters (templates available from iPLATO).
  • Communication with various patient groups and organisations e.g. local LINK and PPG groups.
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