25 January 2024

Royal Papworth Hospital and DrDoctor have been named as finalists in the HSJ Partnership Awards for their work in digitising patient communications.

The shortlisting for the ‘Sustainability Project of the Year’ category is in recognition of the positive contribution the collaboration has made towards the NHS Green Plan.

In March 2023, the hospital went live with a new system to send patient letters digitally.

Using the DrDoctor portal, patients can securely view letters digitally via email and text within minutes of the letter being sent rather than having to wait for it to physically arrive via the post.

By October, 75% patients were viewing their letters online and nearly 13,500 letters had been saved from being printed.

This has led to substantial financial and environmental savings through a reduction in printing, paper usage and delivery.

The partnership saved 269,020g of carbon emissions between March to October 2023 and financial savings of more than £15,000.

There have also been benefits on staff time with administration teams no longer manually preparing the letters, saving the equivalent of 46 days of admin time.

Because of the quicker process, appointments can also be booked later in the day which has improved productivity. There has also been a reduction in did not attends (DNAs) – because communication channels are streamlined between the hospital and patients - which is another key target across the NHS.

“Hybrid mail has changed how we do things as a team, more time can now be spent booking rather than printing, folding and franking letters,” said Denise Bullock, Deputy Operations Manager.

“We have seen our DNA rates fall across outpatient clinics where we are using hybrid mail and looking forward to increasing our hybrid usage at Royal Papworth Hospital. It gives our patients choice and has enhanced the patient experience."

It is predicted that more than a million grams of CO2 could be saved in a year through this partnership, as well as the equivalent of 81 working days in time savings.

For accessibility and equity, patients are still able to opt-in to receive paper letters if they wish.

Patients who have consented to receive digital letters are also sent a physical letter if there is no evidence they have opened the email or text within a certain time frame.

Winners of the 2024 HSJ Partnership Awards will be announced during an awards ceremony at Evolution London on 21 March 2024.

View the full list of finalists.