Healthcare retention, engagement and recruitment using intelligent automated communication initiatives

29 May 2024  |  by Rebecca Dawes

3 min read

UK healthcare current state

The healthcare sector is currently facing massive challenges regarding retention, engagement, and recruitment. To put some recent numbers on the scale of the problem:

  • The National Health Service (NHS) would need a workforce the size of Newcastle to alleviate gridlocks (SkyNews)
  • In England alone, the NHS could be short of 12,000 hospital doctors and over 50,000 nurses and midwives (Nuffield Trust)
  • The waiting list for hospital treatment rose to a record of nearly 7.8 million in September 2023. The 18-week target for referral to treatment hasn't been met since 2016 (UK Parliament - House of Commons Library)
  • The health and social care sectors will respectively require an additional 475,000 and 490,000 jobs by the early part of the next decade (UK Parliament - House of Lords Library)

It's important to note that the working environment of both clinical and non-clinical staff constitutes our "care environment". As such, these issues directly affect the quality of care received by patients and the overall population.

Given the overwhelming backlog of patients and the growing number of future patients, coupled with the challenges faced by the workforce, change is necessary. 

What’s currently being done?

 In June 2023, the government issued its NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. It is described as: 

“The first comprehensive workforce plan for the NHS, putting staffing on a sustainable footing and improving patient care. It focuses on retaining existing talent and making the best use of new technology alongside the biggest recruitment drive in health service history.”
NHS England

The plan outlines three key aspects of its strategy to address the workforce crisis:

  1. Train - Domestic education and training will need to increase by between 50%–65% by 2023.
  2. Retain - To retain its workforce, the NHS must cultivate a supportive culture. The plan highlights the link between an engaged, happy workforce and positive patient outcomes and safety. By fostering the right culture and meeting staff's core needs, the NHS can deliver sustainable, high-quality services.
  3. Reform - The plan states that growing and retaining the workforce alone will not be enough. The NHS will need to think about what future roles in healthcare will look like and plan accordingly. Staff will be required to adopt new approaches, with a greater emphasis on upstream care. This entails expanding staff numbers in primary, community, and mental health services.

Health Education England has been using Apteco software to tackle the first two objectives of the workforce plan. The project was designed to support recruitment, retention, education, and training of the NHS workforce. Apteco software supported HEE to consolidate all of their data for analysis across all sources of information. Based on this data, they then used the Apteco solution to send tailored communications as part of a structured training and retention program. The third objective of reform will rely heavily on automation and using technology to adopt new ways of working. 

What role does automation play? 

The answer to the healthcare sector’s challenges lies in delivering new and existing services in innovative and proactive ways. Automation, of varying levels of intelligence and complexity, will undoubtedly play a part in this.

While automation is often hailed as the sole solution, it can inadvertently create additional tasks for healthcare professionals. Rather than replacing individuals, automation tools should complement and enhance the capabilities of healthcare teams. It’s important to ask: does automation streamline mundane tasks, allowing teams to prioritise face-to-face care?

NHS providers believe that there are five main drivers for automation: 

  1. Healthcare operations and back office: Leveraging analytics and cross-departmental data intelligence can eliminate manual workflows, enabling care teams to deliver tailored care.
  2. Patient experience: The individual is the true source of knowledge and an expert in how they want their care delivered. Efficient communication channels will empower the patient and encourage key engagement with care teams.
  3. Patient outcomes: Effective digital communication and informed pathways lead to improved patient outcomes and support population health management.
  4. Staff satisfaction: Care teams don't want repetitive process-driven tasks and data entry to be a key part of their role. Automation should prioritise streamlining handover activities between teams, leveraging data to facilitate efficient workflows.
  5. Cost management: Efficiency gains from automation contribute to cost reduction. This could save the NHS billions annually.

How can healthcare providers achieve these outcomes? 

We believe that transitioning towards tailored, strategic and targeted communications will support the goals of reforming healthcare workforce by supporting the above drivers for change. The elements of this will lie in the following three themes:

Empowering patients

Focusing on patient activation involves equipping individuals with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage their health and well-being independently and seek assistance when necessary. Essentially, it involves encouraging individuals to take charge of their own health. Empowering patients supports better patient outcomes and improves overall experience and interaction with care teams.

Thoughtful communication design

Strategic communications design goes beyond merely delivering messages to patients and the broader population. It entails adopting a strategic and progressive approach to communications tailored to the specific needs of individuals and the complexity of their conditions. Staff are able to proactively target messages to those who need support the most and be aware of those who are not actively engaged with their care teams. 

Implementation of an intelligent communications and analytics platform

An intelligent communications platform – integrated as a strategic asset within an Integrated Care System (ICS) or healthcare provider – serves to design, develop, and execute proactive and dynamic communication services for all users, including staff, patients and people not actively managed by the NHS.

Analytics across the ICS or provider form the basis to provide structured communications and can nudge people into better decisions. These platforms can also leverage external data, user inputs, and external triggers (such as weather data or sensor alerts) to initiate actions ranging from simple messages to comprehensive clinical interventions.

The Apteco approach 

We set ourselves apart by developing our software in-house, right here in the UK. With over 35 years of experience, we’ve assembled a seasoned team of trainers, consultants, developers, and marketers. This experience and knowledge is what makes brands around the world trust Apteco, and it’s why we believe we can bring significant value not only to the NHS but also to UK healthcare providers across the UK.

How we work with you 

Healthcare data doesn’t just offer insights into population health and clinical analysis – it can encourage behavioural change and support prevention too. Apteco’s aim is to help you use data insights to redesign care pathways. We give you the tools to develop strategic communications, so people make better lifestyle decisions, live healthy lives, and receive interventions when needed. 

NHS Health Education England and the Department of Health and Social Care are already seeing the benefits of using Apteco to analyse their data and to design, develop, and execute targeted communication campaigns to support people to make better health decisions. 

Here are some highlights: 

  • Frequent reporting on registration metrics and engagement data of key campaigns
  • Delivery of highly targeted, dynamic email communications
  • Understanding of who has shown an interest in multiple career areas within the NHS
  • Increase of 37% of applications to nursing and midwifery courses
  • Increase of 40% of applicants to Allied Health professional courses

“Apteco software has led to many benefits. We’ve seen a decrease in turnaround times on complex user journeys, meaning savings to the taxpayer. Possibly the greatest benefit is access to real-time data allowing us to respond to stakeholder data requests immediately and think more strategically about future campaigns.”
Darren Aldrich, Head of Communications, NHS Health Careers

Discover how Apteco help you to deliver tailored, intelligence-led healthcare communication programmes.

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Rebecca Dawes

Healthcare Specialist

Rebecca has been with Apteco since 2021 and has been working with and alongside the NHS for over 20 years.

Before Apteco, Rebecca held various roles supporting health organisations to embrace technology for positive change. Key work includes strategy development, software design and implementation of new technologies within NHS Trusts.

Rebecca is a health enthusiast with a keen interest in holistic approaches to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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