Messaging

How it works | Implementing | Remember | FAQs

PatientView now allows secure messaging between patients and staff.  It is automatically switched on only for one recipient, the ‘Default messaging contact’.  You can allocate or reallocate this role as a ‘feature’ when editing staff (see Unit Admin Guide). A record is kept of all messages, and potentially sensitive data is not transmitted in emails. Email notifications tell you that there is a message for you, with the name of the sender. Feedback etc: see FAQs.

How messaging works

It feels similar to messaging in other online systems and people have not found it difficult to use.  Have a look at the page when logged in.

In detail:

  • Messaging is available to all patients in a unit, but only members of staff flagged as ‘Message Recipients’ in the Staff User editing dashboard are listed as recipients.  This can be as many or as few as you like.
  • To send a message, User clicks on ‘messages’ in the top menu bar, then selects ‘Create New’
  • Choose unit (Group).  Usually you will choose ‘My Group’ so you can pick users from your unit. Admins can also select PatientView Central Support, and staff who have messaging activated (admins, others) from other units in your specialty.  Recipient is then chosen from drop-down menu or searched for and clicked on.
    • Patients see a list of all staff who have been flagged as messaging recipients
    • Staff see staff recipients as well; in the list they are below patients.  To find one patient, or staff member type in first or last name and click on ‘Filter’.
    • Messages can be sent to multiple recipients, and all will be included in replies.
  • When you click Send, an email is sent to the recipient, using the address registered for them, saying that there is a message for them and that they should log in to read it.
  • Note that not all patients have email addresses, and some of them will be wrong.  See points to remember (below). In the future we hope to use text messages as an alternative or additional alert.  But they cost money.
  • The recipient clicks on the link in the email they receive. They log into PatientView and read the message.  There is a reply option.

Implementing messaging in a unit

Here is what we suggest.  Be ready in advance:

  • Discuss policy – how many staff users; content of advance messages/ literature, how to monitor progress, etc.
  • Send a message to staff users telling them that messaging is about to be implemented, and maybe pointing them to this page. Or you may choose to implement it with only a very few potential recipients, so that only they need to know the details in this early message.  See FAQs.
  • Go through your Staff User list (Unit Admins have access to this) and
  • Check the list.  Delete users who’ve left.  Check email addresses are correct. (click on user names in the list to make these changes)
  • Set the Message Recipient flag on those who you want to appear as message recipients. You get this option after clicking on their name. Ignore the other checkboxes.
  • Add staff role – this appears in brackets after their name in the Recipients list.  So that patients see: Susan Turner (Dietitian); Lionel Campbell (PD unit); Rachel Thomas (Consultant) in their recipient list, to help them direct messages.
  • Put up a news item for your unit explaining it (See Unit Admin Guide to remind you how).
  • At launch, send a message to all patients (this is an option just below the list of staff in the Recipient pick list) telling them about it.  This message will remain in their inbox so they can look it up later.  Here is suggested text:

Welcome to PatientView’s new messaging system. You can use it to contact your doctor, dietitian, social worker, community dialysis team and others by clicking on ‘New Message’ when you go into Messages at the top right. You should get an email each time there is a message for you – if we have a working email address for you in the system. Check your email by clicking on the Account tab at the top of this page.

IMPORTANT – please note that this system is NOT for very important or urgent messages. We haven’t yet got a way to alert us or you if the person you are sending it to is away and hasn’t picked up the message, for instance. Hope this works well.

Points to remember in general use of the system

  • Absences You need to think what happens when staff Message Recipients are on leave.  Vacation messages will not be transmitted back to patients.  In NHSmail, it is possible to allow others, such as secretaries, to administer your account.  For security reasons, staff must not share their PatientView logins.
  • Email addresses of patients are first entered manually by the Unit Admin (see Unit Admin guide).  To check they are correct, patients joining now receive a verification email, with a link to click on, that proves we have it right.  Patients can send another of these verfifying emails under ‘Account’; so can Unit Admins, by searching for the patient and clicking on the down arrow to the right of ‘Edit’.  If the email is not verified, you can’t be sure that patients know you’ve sent them a message.
  • Tell us how you get on.
  • More info about Admin roles in PatientView

FAQs

Doesn’t it create lots more work? – Messaging was piloted for a year in Edinburgh.  Patients have been very cautious about using it, and there have been very few examples of abuse.  It hasn’t created much more work and hasn’t ruined anyone’s life.  It has reduced some confusions, errors, and understandable worries.  If anything, we need to encourage more patients to use it.  A more detailed evaluation is in preparation.

Who gets the most messages?  PatientView admins.  It has been used to notify wrong addresses, phone numbers, GPs etc. Previously these communications came, but in different ways.  Sometimes concerns or praise about care have been sent this way.

Should we launch in a big bang, or in a trickle with just one or two staff recipients?  That’s up to you.  If you launch with just a few recipients, it may seem simpler, but will it be so useful to patients?  When you add new recipients, will patients then pick up that it’s more useful later?  At some point as you expand you’ll have to educate everyone.  So in Edinburgh we put a lot of staff in as recipients at the beginning, emailed and spoke to them all. Many had forgotten their logins and needed an update and it was a good opportunity. Other staff wanted to join.

What else should we tell staff at the same time?  What PV2 can do, show them Graphs, levels of uptake in your unit.

What do patients say?  Without exception patients said they liked the idea, but use it only when really necessary.  Most say they intend to use it, but cite concern not to overload busy clinical staff.  Most don’t think it has reduced hospital visits much so far, but some comment that it has reduced the need for GP visits as queries about medication and other issues could be resolved more easily. Some who have used it to contact clinicians have made comments like this one:

“It has been really useful just to ask a quick question or clarify a point that came up during a consultation that I have gone home and thought about”

What do staff say?  Despite some initial concerns, the service has not resulted in a lot of messages, and has been seen as allowing some issues to be resolved more quickly, and without unnecessary visits.   Plans are hatching to use Messaging to facilitate remote clinics and care pathways.

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