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Online Letter Printing and Mailing Solutions for Primary Care

Online Letter Printing and Mailing Solutions for Primary Care New Solutions for New Challenges in GP Practices Why Hybrid Mailing Could be the Magic Bullet Choosing a Hybrid Mail Provider Hybrid Mail – A 21st Century Solution

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Huge time and cost savings No contract! No minimum quantity! Free sign up! Now even easier to use with Docmail PrintDriver ONLY UK PRINT & MAIL COMPANY WITH 100% IG TOOLKIT

Find out why these practices simply LOVE Docmail! Martin’s Oak Surgery, Battle

Portesham Surgery, West Dorset

Sunnyside Medical Centre, Portsmouth

“We started using Docmail a couple of years ago to help reduce the burden of doing large mailings, and almost instantly we could see its appeal.

“We have used Docmail in our practice for the last five years - prior to which I used to spend a whole morning printing letters, and getting on my knees to stuff envelopes with our flu invitation letter! We use Docmail for mass mailings, including all our flu clinic invitations but also towards year-end to mail lists of patients who are missing something like a recent blood pressure reading.

“Within a matter of weeks of signing up to Docmail, we were able to train all the administration team and secretaries to use the system.

“Docmail has saved money, staff hours and elbow grease and once we learned how to format the documents and spreadsheets, it really was plain sailing. Furthermore, the helpdesk are invaluable - they are very responsive, understanding, and have some great hints and tips. “For example, our flu campaign alone saves over £800 and by using EMIS Web searches cleverly; we can combine runs to offset costs even further.” Carey Sinclair, Practice Manager

“I have just estimated the mailings would cost almost twice as much if we did them in-house the traditional way. Based on sending out 1,000 letters, Docmail would cost just over £350, but including postage at 53p, envelopes, paper, and ink costs, plus staff time, it would cost us around £670 to do the same mailing, a saving of around over £300. The savings are amazing!” Alison Dunbar, Practice Manager

“The step-by-step guide was a big help when training other staff members, and everyone has picked it up quickly. You only need to set everything up once - the headed paper, various templates, and mailing lists - which makes it more convenient for other staff members to log-on and use. “We have undoubtedly cut our postage and stationery costs in half, and we have saved countless hours on mass-mailings. I would not hesitate to recommend Docmail to other medical practices.” Stacey Windebank , Practice Administration and IT Assistant

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Online Letter Printing and Mailing Solutions for Primary Care

Contents Foreword


Tom Cropper, Editor Online Letter Printing and Mailing Solutions for Primary Care New Solutions for New Challenges in GP Practices Why Hybrid Mailing Could be the Magic Bullet Choosing a Hybrid Mail Provider Hybrid Mail – A 21st Century Solution

Online Letter Printing and Mailing 3 Solutions for Primary Care CFH Docmail Ltd

Sponsored by

Case Study: Klaus Green, The Mill Medical Practice Published by Global Business Media

Case Study: Portesham Surgery

Published by Global Business Media

New Solutions for New Challenges in GP Practices

Global Business Media Limited 62 The Street Ashtead Surrey KT21 1AT United Kingdom

Tom Cropper, Editor

Switchboard: +44 (0)1737 850 939 Fax: +44 (0)1737 851 952 Email: Website:

An Existential Threat for People with Diabetes

Publisher Kevin Bell

Why Hybrid Mailing Could be the Magic Bullet

Business Development Director Marie-Anne Brooks

Jo Roth, Staff Writer

Editor Tom Cropper Senior Project Manager Steve Banks

A Growing Healthcare Challenge What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer? Prevalence and Consequences of Diabetic Foot Ulcers


Choosing a Hybrid Mail Provider James Butler, Correspondent

Production Manager Paul Davies

Becoming Paper-Light

Material in advertisements and promotional features may be considered to represent the views of the advertisers and promoters. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily express the views of the Publishers or the Editor. While every care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, neither the Publishers nor the Editor are responsible for such opinions and views or for any inaccuracies in the articles. © 2016. The entire contents of this publication are protected by copyright. Full details are available from the Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.


Data Security Choosing a Supplier Is the Service Right for you?

Hybrid Mail – A 21st Century Solution The opinions and views expressed in the editorial content in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation with which they may be associated.


What is Hybrid Mail?

Advertising Executives Michael McCarthy Abigail Coombes

For further information visit:



Tom Cropper, Editor

Coming of Age Problems

References 14


Foreword M

UCH HAS been said and written about

The substantial gains and productivity improvements

hybrid mailing services in recent times, but

of docmail are enabling practices to square the

what lies behind the hype? That’s the question

circle of saving time and money while also improving

this Report will attempt to uncover.

patient service.

Hybrid mail or docmail allows users to send

Jo Roth will then look more closely at some of the

physical letters straight from their own PC. There is

benefits, while James Butler examines the key issues

no need to spend time and money packing letters

providers should consider before implementing these

and sending them out. Instead a company can do

strategies. The number of providers is growing, but

it for you. Supporters suggest these services can

likewise, substantial variation exists in terms of quality

reduce the expense of sending out a letter by between

and reliability. Getting the most out of hybrid mail

50 and 70%.

depends on approaching it in the right way.

In a cash strapped sector like general practice these

Finally, we’ll look to the future. Hybrid mail is hyped

are considerable savings indeed. In our opening

as a solution of the future. Can it live up to this billing

article, we hear from one of the leading companies in

and what key developments are coming to take this

this space CFH Docmail. They argue that GP services

growing industry to fruition? The answers to these

could save approximately £70 million per year. It is

questions hold the key to where this technology can

currently being used by 3000 GP practices around

progress over the next few years.

the country, and that number is growing. In our second article, we’ll look at the key factors prompting this switch. GP practices face a cash crisis. Funding cuts of more than 50% in some places are placing practices around the country in jeopardy.

Tom Cropper Editor

Tom Cropper has produced articles and reports on various aspects of global business over the past 15 years. He has also worked as a copywriter for some of the largest corporations in the world, including ING, KPMG and the World Wildlife Fund.



Online Letter Printing and Mailing Solutions for Primary Care CFH Docmail Ltd


FH DOCMAIL has estimated that GP surgeries and medical centres could be saving at least £73 million in mailing costs each year. The 10,000 medical practices across the UK could each be making a significant annual saving by switching from printing, stuffing, sealing, stamping and posting their written patient correspondence, to using a hybrid mail system. At a time when staff resources and budgets are under immense pressure in the healthcare sector, cost-effective and time-saving solutions are always welcome. With an average saving of 73 pence per printed letter over the traditional method, the secure Docmail service offers both time and cost saving benefits compared with the labour-intensive task of a manual postal mailing, whilst not compromising on service or quality. In fact, the efficiencies of hybrid mail for GP Practices and Medical Centres have been recognised by EMIS, the patient information software, which has now chosen the rapidlygrowing Docmail solution as a key partner. Docmail is now being used by over 3,000 GP practices throughout the country which have

opted to use this method to send out written communications to their patients and suppliers. Dave Broadway, Managing Director of Docmail, explains: “Hybrid mail is still a relatively new solution, but with the proven time and cost savings that it brings, all practice managers should take note. We appreciate that business owners, managers and finance officers are still under huge pressure when it comes to making already stretched budgets go further, and staff taking on more work. Docmail offers a tangible, exciting alternative to traditional post, for less than the price of a first class stamp.”

Case Study: Klaus Green, The Mill Medical Practice Catteshall Mill, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1JW ‘Mill Hill Practice has achieved some of the best results for flu vaccinations in their Clinical Commissioning Group. We refined our approach four years ago. We began to use the EMIS search tools to cross check patients and establish four lists of patients with the same vaccination requirements. WWW.PRIMARYCAREREPORTS.CO.UK | 3


The efficiencies of hybrid mail for GP Practices and Medical Centres have been recognised by EMIS, the patient information software, which has now chosen the rapidly-growing Docmail solution as a key partner

The letters are personalised to each patient giving them information about why they need to attend and timings. All the lists and the letter copy are set up on Docmail and the system prints, stuffs and delivers the letters. All we do is press the buttons. We invite patients to attend a one off flu clinic. The patient letter is also the administration document which means that we don’t have to do any computer look ups or cross checks on the day. We use the opportunity to check the patient’s smoking status and blood pressure noted on the same document Using Docmail each invitation costs less than a second class stamp, and we meet our contractual requirement to have a robust call and recall service for the clinic.’

Case Study: Portesham Surgery Portesham Surgery, a rural practice serving the community around the Bride Valley in West Dorset, is counting the savings after five years using Docmail’s hybrid mailing system for its patient communications. Practice Manager, Alison Dunbar, has been using Docmail for the surgery’s mass mailings, to save both time and money when it comes to mailing their patient database. She comments: “We have used Docmail in our practice for the last five years – prior to which I used to spend a whole morning printing letters, and getting on my knees to stuff envelopes with our flu invitation letter! We use Docmail for mass mailings, including all our flu clinic invitations but also towards year-end to mail lists of patients who are missing something like a recent blood pressure reading.” 4 | WWW.PRIMARYCAREREPORTS.CO.UK

“Traditionally, mailing all our patients on a regular basis can be a costly exercise, but the time and cost savings through using Docmail really helps and means we can afford to do more mailings. This means more patients come in for vital checks and monitoring, whilst hopefully increasing our QOF performance.” As a small practice with just two part-time secretaries, Alison does all the mailings herself, but the simplicity and speed of the Docmail service makes this a much more manageable task. However, Docmail does more than just save time. Commenting on the cost-saving, Alison explains: “I have just estimated the mailings would cost almost twice as much if we did them in-house the traditional way. Based on sending out 1,000 letters, Docmail would cost just over £390, but


Docmail is also perfectly suited to help GPs fulfil the requirements of the ‘named accountable GP’ contract. There is no requirement for GPs to write to any patients regarding their named GP, but practices are required to inform patients of their named GP at the next appropriate interaction. Practices can decide what is appropriate, in line with the 2014-2015 contract changes. However it should be noted that patients aged 75 or over must still be notified by the most appropriate means either by letter or the next routine consultation. By the end of March 2016, the practice must confirm on their website that every patient has a named GP. If a practice already operates a personal list and patients are familiar with having a personal GP, there is no need to inform patients again. However, it will still be necessary to ensure that confirmation is provided on the website. Practices are required, to use the new code ‘Informing patient of named accountable general practitioner’. including postage at 54p, envelopes, paper, and ink costs, plus staff time, it would cost us around £690 to do the same mailing, a saving of over £300. The savings are amazing – we will be using Docmail more often!” “Docmail makes mass mailings much quicker, and easier than the old way, and financially, we are ‘quids in’ – clearly we can see the benefits for other surgeries to be using this solution.” CFH Docmail’s commitment to delivering added value to the medical sector has resulted in a number of specific developments in 2015. A new Practice Post newsletter which addresses the most pressing concerns for GPs is now sent quarterly to all UK practices. A study has also been undertaken to look at the improvements that can be made in written patient communications. Encouraging high risk groups to attend for vaccination is always a challenge for GPs. The process is often exacerbated by confused perceptions about the importance and efficacy of the protection as the recent drop in those attending for flu vaccinations has shown. However, GP practices that segment their databases and use tailored messages that resonate with the recipient have managed to buck the trend.

For more information and a free trial visit

Footnote *The savings were estimated as follows: All 10,000 medical practices in the UK, each sending approx. 10,000 letters per annum (based on the average Docmail order from medical practices). The current cost for a 2nd class item is approximately £1.12 – as follows: • Postage 54p (62p 1st class) • Stationery – 8p • Envelope – 5p • Franking machine rental / toner – 6p • Toner and Print Costs – 4p •S  taff time at £10 per hour (3 minutes per letter – 45p) Docmail prices for black only letter are 39p (+VAT), so that’s a saving of 73p per letter. For 10,000 letters, that’s a saving of £7,300 per surgery, per annum. Across 10,000 surgeries, £73 million in savings across the country per year.



New Solutions for New Challenges in GP Practices Tom Cropper, Editor

Tougher targets, tighter budgets and a more demanding government – times are tough for GP practices in the UK.

Figures released at the beginning of 2014 by the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed that GP practices receive £136 per patient



P PRACTICES find themselves under plenty of pressure. Criticised for their performance and seeing cuts in critical funding, many fear for the future. Survival is a major challenge. To do so they will have to embrace new ways of thinking, processes and technology.

Money Worries The scale of the financial problems facing GP practices is stark. Figures released at the beginning of 2014 by the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed that GP practices receive £136 per patient. Although this conceals substantial variation across different practices, Pulse was quick to point out that this was less than an annual subscription to SKY TV . However, the Government is pushing for even more cuts. Research by RCGP, conducted by Deloitte, predicts general practice funding is set to reach a record low of 7.29% of the NHS budget, down from 8.39% in 2012/13. In real terms the study expects funding to decrease by £1.59bn. These cuts come despite increasing demands on GP practices. Patient consultations are expected to increase by approximately 70% by 2017. The same study found that 409 million consultations are expected by 2017, up from 340 million in 2012/132. The impacts are being felt around the country. Writing in the New Statesman in July 2015, Phil Whitaker pointed out that, according to NHS England, GP practices were worth roughly £2 per patient per week in funding. “On our patch of 27 practices, two look in danger of going to the wall and others are considering amalgamating in order to survive3,” he writes. What’s more, he goes on to outline that the biggest cuts are hitting surgeries in deprived areas, those serving small rural communities and those serving young people. Cuts are falling heavily in university GP surgeries, he states. GP leaders have been warning that these cuts will

lead to closures, with some areas facing the prospect of half of all surgeries closing down4. At the same time, practices are coming under pressure to extend opening hours, and improve standards. The Government plans to bring in seven day GP services even though a review of 20 pilot schemes run around the country revealed that Sunday attendance was ‘very low’ with patients choosing not to attend practices on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. An evaluation for NHS England found that weekend services might be best preserved for urgent appointments rather than prebooked appointments5. However, there is a need to provide more flexible access to GP practices for patients with the provision of phone consultations with doctors proving to be a popular idea, even if innovations such as video consultations have not proved as popular. Concerns continue about the standard of current services. At the time of writing, the Care Quality Commission’s Chief Inspector of General Practice, has caused controversy with an interview in the Daily Mail in which he criticised standards among many branches. He highlighted incidents of locums being hired without checking their competence, patients having to queue for four hours to get an appointment, and some surgeries being infested with cockroaches, retaining out of date prescriptions and failing to keep key emergency equipment such as defibrillators. Although the CQC’s own findings rate 85% of GP practices as being good or excellent, he is quoted in the article as saying “I believe that we’ve failed as a profession. Sometimes we go into a surgery and it’s so bad we go to court the following day to close it down. As a practising GP, I’m quite ashamed that some of my colleagues are providing such poor care6.” The statement provoked a strong rebuttal from the BMA and the RCGP who issued strong


criticisms of the CQC’s own performance. Nevertheless, the challenge is clear. GP practices are being asked to do more with much less. A key issue is administration costs. Under GP Contract Terms for 2013/14, GPs are no longer paid for their administration costs. At the same time they must work harder to meet tougher QOF targets. According to a survey from Pulse, the immediate result among some GPs has been to lay off staff. Their figures reveal that one in seven had been forced to make redundancies7. However, to truly rise to the challenge, GP practitioners must find ways to make administrations more effective, less burdensome and cheaper.

Lightening the Load A Review from Health Education England recommended taking on specialist assistants to manage paperwork and cut back the workload on GPs. This, says the report, will reduce stress and free GPs up to take on more work. The report claims the hiring of dedicated administrators such as medical assistants would be the “equivalent of more than 1,400 more full time GPs in England8”. However, truly transformative gains can be achieved by switching to hybrid mailing services,

which allow users to hire out the task of printing and sending out letters. By sending documents to another organisation which prints and sends the letters, they can save time and money. The benefits are considerable, with services suggesting surgeries could expect gains of 50% to 70%. There are obstacles. GP practices have been slow, in some places, to embrace new technologies and technologies. They fear change and worry the transition to a new system could create more problems than it solves. They may be right in some circumstances and teething problems are not unheard of. However, the benefits outweigh the problems. This is why more and more practices are making the change to hybrid mail services. These providers, in turn, are becoming more sophisticated and offering improved performance. The upshot is a vibrant and exciting market. These companies have real savings and benefit to offer. GP practitioners, in their turn, offer hybrid mail services an attracting and growing source of new business. Both factors are spurring improvements and developments, which mean docmail will be a key technology for the future.



Why Hybrid Mailing Could be the Magic Bullet Jo Roth, Staff Writer

Hybrid mail services makes impressive claims about productivity improvements and money savings, but do these stack up to scrutiny?

Although the idea has been around for some time, the market is still in relatively early days. Many people outside offices will not even know much about hybrid mail or how it works


P PRACTICES have a challenging task ahead of them. They need to save money, improve performance and ensure patients receive the very highest standards of care – all with a substantially reduced budget. It’s a circle which nobody seems sure they can square but part of the answer may lie in the use of hybrid mailing services. These have increased significantly over the past few years and make bold claims about the kind of savings and service improvements they can offer. The question for GP practices is: precisely what does this service offer and how can we get the best out of it?

What is Hybrid Mail? Hybrid mail is a combination of digital and physical delivery. In most cases it involves the transfer of documentation or letters digitally to a distribution location positioned close to the delivery address. This can then be printed out by the agent and delivered physically. The early history of hybrid mail services saw them used extensively in the developing world where they could help overcome local infrastructure obstructions to delivery. In the UK and elsewhere, in the West, the growth of hybrid mail has been motivated by two factors: cost and convenience. Here in the UK, regulatory constraints compel the Royal Mail to offer favourable access terms to hybrid mail service companies. The advantages come in cost. Although there is a fee associated with this service, it is typically less than the cost of using the Royal Mail or printing out and distributing documents from the GP practice. Add to this the time savings by alleviating much of the administrative burden of preparing and sending out letters, and there are clear incentives for users. Figures


from Xerox suggest the true cost of printing out a single page letter can be as much as £1.20. However, hybrid mail services can cut costs by between 50% and 60%9. There is also a benefit for the environment. Hybrid mail services print out all their clients’ letters in one bulk run, giving the benefit of an industrial printing facility with none of the costs. This is much more energy efficient than using a desktop printer and franking machine, making this a good option for any office looking to improve its environmental credentials. Last but not least practices should consider productivity improvements. Administration represents a heavy burden for all GP practices. Doctors are reported to spend approximately 11% of their time dealing with administrative tasks10. Analysts and experts have suggested the hiring of additional administrative staff to take on some of the more routine jobs, but this involves an investment in recruitment. At a time when many GP practices around the country are being forced to make redundancies, this will feel like an expense few are capable of incurring. By transferring the task of printing, packing and sending letters to an external firm, GPs can free up staff for more productive tasks. Doctors can spend more time with patients, surgery staff can spend time dealing directly with patients, reducing waiting times and increasing the number of people that can be seen in any one day. If hybrid mailing functions in the way its supporters claim, it can lead to a sleeker, more efficient and higher performing service. Such offerings have sparked a mushrooming of providers in this space. New entrants are coming into the business all the time, and many existing participants report growth of 150% and more in business. There is a concerted move of GP practices making the transition into hybrid mail.


Challenges Although the idea has been around for some time, the market is still in relatively early days. Many people outside offices will not even know much about hybrid mail or how it works. Understanding about the true benefits of mail services can be limited. Part of the reason could stem from the difficulty of accurately assessing what they can do for your organisation. Many GP practices – as with other offices – typically struggle to accurately estimate how much money they spend using existing systems. Although the prices quoted by hybrid mail services appear appealing, they find it difficult to truly quantify the savings they might generate. Providers, though, argue that virtually all practices stand to benefit. On average, any company will send between four to ten letters each and every day. GP practices, with their high requirement to communicate with patients, will need to send more than most other organisations. As such, it is here that some of the greatest gains can be found. In addition, there is also a problem with inertia. A large number of GP practices have proved reluctant to embrace the use of IT. Many doctors still prefer to use old fashioned paper-based

filing systems with which they are comfortable, rather than make the transition to new and unfamiliar technologies. Some patients and doctors are uncomfortable with patient data being available in a digital format. There is comfort in knowing details and documents are stored in a physical place. Security is an issue when choosing providers. The service involves the transfer of extremely sensitive details and the level of security within different providers is far from uniform. Accreditation systems exist to provide a certain degree of reassurance that a system provides required security. But in an environment in which patient confidentiality is crucial, fears over security represent a major barrier to service uptake. The market is in an extremely interesting phase and seems set for rapid and substantial growth. However, obstacles remain. Providers of hybrid mail services need to educate customers about the potential benefits their services can bring. Equally, GP practices can benefit from a more comprehensive overview of their existing administrative systems, as well as greater understanding about hybrid mail. The gains are considerable, and could prove the difference between closure and long term sustainable operation.



Choosing a Hybrid Mail Provider James Butler, Correspondent

Factors every practice should understand when selecting a new hybrid or docmailing service provider.

Data management has always been a sensitive issue for the NHS. In April 2015 a Computer World investigation found that the NHS topped the list of data breaches reported to the ICO


YBRID AND docmailing ser vices represent a tantalising proposition for GP practices. However, as with any significant change to a surgery, making a successful transition is a delicate business. Practices must consider a host of issues, from the reliability of the system to overall cost, data security and patient satisfaction. Doing so requires an awareness of what the system does and how it works, and the different providers on offer. Getting this decision wrong can cause serious problems, impact on service performance and harm a GP practice’s reputation.

Data Security Data management has always been a sensitive issue for the NHS. In April 2015 a Computer World investigation found that the NHS topped the list of data breaches reported to the ICO. Whistleblowers alerted the watchdog to 20 NHS Trusts, 13 local government authorities, five courts and five central government departments. An additional 498 data breaches were selfreported to the Information Commissioner by NHS departments11. Breaches ranged from losing hardware like a USB key or printer to uploading sensitive information onto websites or losing patient documents. All in all, according to information from the ICO, the number of data breaches reported has doubled from healthcare organisations since 201312. Reasons can be attributed to a range of factors such as budget cuts, staff shortages, an increase in bureaucracy, and the unsuccessful implementation of new IT structures. These figures come as GPs face greater scrutiny on their data management practices. From February 2015, they faced a compulsory audit from the ICO office. The visits are intended to flag up gaps in processes before a breach occurs, but campaigners have argued that the impact could be severe. In 2013, Big Brother Watch warned that GP


practices could face fines up to £500,000 if found in breach of patient documentation13. While new inspections are not intended to lead to fines, the pressure on practices to be – and to be seen to be – compliant is growing. According to data from YouGov, 70% of people were concerned about the security of their data online. Before implementing any new system, therefore, a service should make sure they are comfortable the new system will be secure and reliable. Assessing the security of data and how a company uses information is therefore a critical factor. Buyers can seek out independent verification through the information governance toolkit. This is a piece of software which allows companies to assess their own information governance rating against Information Governance standards. If a supplier is participating in the Information Governance Scheme, potential buyers will be able to view their assessments. Given the sensitive nature of the information practices routinely sent out they should only work with those which have a 100% Information Governance rating.

Becoming Paper-Light In its guidance on moving to a paper-light administration system, the Royal College of General Practitioners states that practices should ensure they are doing so for the right reasons, such as saving time, staff shortages, or stresses on staff – rather than pressure from the board or the enthusiasm of a single stakeholder. They should also make sure adequate business continuity systems and redundancy mechanisms are in place to protect the safety of data. Once systems are in place, surgeries should provide as much information as possible to their patients about how they manage their data. A significant proportion of patient concern and uncertainty surrounding data management


stems from a lack of knowledge. By providing clear and consistent information about the use of data, including the use of any docmailing services, GPs can do much to reassure patients and install trust in their service. When choosing a docmail provider, practices also need reassurance that they comply with the highest standards of data security. The increase in the numbers of hybrid mail providers inevitably means a wide variation in the level of security GPs should expect to experience. The best should use the same secure internet services that banks use to process data. Accreditations such as ISO 27001 also provide reassurance about the safety of any data sent from the surgery.

Choosing a Supplier As well as being safe and secure, you will want your supplier to offer a high level of quality. With any industry experiencing the same growth as service providers seen within hybrid mailing, quality will vary. GPs should look at the technology involved including the encryption of any data. Examine their background and check if they have a successful and reliable track record. The more established and experienced they are the more confident you can be that they’ll be around for the long term and will offer a good quality service. Finding a provider which has specialist experience working with GP practices will also be a bonus as they will be in a better position to offer a service which fits in with your requirements. Many will be happy to offer case studies about services they have worked with in the past which, in turn, can help you to assess the benefits and gains you might expect to secure for your own service.

Is the Service Right for you? The final issue is possibly one of the most important. Practices should look carefully at the service on offer to be certain they know what they are getting. Many will make it difficult to have labelled or branded envelopes, and there may be restrictions on what a practice can add into envelopes. You should also look at things such as the addition of images, postal options, whether or not colour can be included. How easy is it to correct documents or to track the status of any delivery? Think also about your own system. Some use software which can be integrated into existing IT systems while others have a web-based portal. Balance the considerations against one another. On the one hand adding tools to a current system will be labour intensive, but using a web-based application raises more questions of security. Make the right decision and the surgery will benefit, but get it wrong and the solution could cause more problems than it solves. GP surgeries and hybrid mail appear, in many ways, to be a perfect fit. Surgeries are constrained by budget and resource limitations, but have a huge amount of mailing to carry out. Hybrid mail providers are growing and looking for new and more lucrative markets. Healthcare represents an excellent option. The challenge is for both sides to understand one another better. Once healthcare professionals know more about hybrid mail and what it can offer, they will be in a much better position to make the right buying decisions for their requirements. Equally, the more hybrid mail providers know about their potential customers, the more tailored solutions they will be able to provide. WWW.PRIMARYCAREREPORTS.CO.UK | 11


Hybrid Mail – A 21st Century Solution Tom Cropper, Editor

Hybrid mail is growing rapidly, but what lies behind the hype and can it truly transform GP practices?

Practices can create their own tailor-made letters which are securely printed and posted off-site. By linking up with the EMIS software this correspondence can be quickly added to the patient’s record



T’S THE 21st century solution which has got everyone talking. But hybrid mail has been around for much longer than many people think. The difference now is that the concept is coming of age. Technology is improving, demand and awareness is growing, while competition between providers is driving innovation. More and more businesses – from all industries – are waking up to the benefits it can deliver to their organisations. The question is: where can it go now? Here, we look at some of the ways it’s already driving benefits and the important trends which hold the key to the future.

Coming of Age While seen by many as a 21st century solution, hybrid mail has been with us since the 70s. However it has remained in the margins until recent years. By 2004, two billion letters were sent by hybrid mail and the 11 years since have seen strong and consistent growth to the point where some see this as becoming the norm for both business and personal clients. Writing for In Publishing, Ian Philips says: “Technology and the internet have brought us to the point where I can see a time in the not too distant future where both business and private individuals will use a Hybrid Mail service to print and mail all their letters and documents, including postcards and Christmas cards.” A number of factors merging together at the same time have combined to make the future fertile ground for hybrid mail. Technology is improving rapidly and opening up new doors. Improved internet connections mean web portals are becoming much more popular. These allow quick and easy access to services from a desktop computer without the installation of any new software or procedures. As security protocols improve, confidence is growing in web based applications in which large amounts of sensitive data are effectively stored on ‘the cloud’.

In addition, users can also choose a number of other access options including a virtual printer driver. This installs directly onto the PC and allows you to send documents to print in much the same way you would a conventional office printer. Alternatively, an Application Programme Interface can be integrated into existing business applications. This might involve an additional cost, but will offer more control and security. They are using them for everything from appointment reminders to patient recall services, generating real savings in both time and money. Docmail is making its presence felt in the healthcare sector with increasing numbers of surgeries embracing the concept. They are using them for everything from appointment reminders to patient recall services, generating real savings in both time and money. For Elisabeth Scott, for example, Practice Manager at Nova Scotia Medical Centre in Allerton Bywater, Leeds, the benefit is a sizable reduction in the amount of time it takes to send letters to patients. “We calculated that to send an average letter out, from selecting the patient, setting up the required letter template, inputting the details and updating the medical record, to actually filling and posting the envelope, takes between three and four minutes. Now we can process around 200 in the same time.” NHS Scotland, meanwhile, believes the system has saved a total of £300,000. Christine Watt, Practice Manager at Kirkcaldy Health Centre said: ‘More than half of our patients have chronic illnesses that require annual check-ups so for patient recalls, Docmail is invaluable. We also use it to send out appointment and treatment reminders too. Given that we have around 8,000 patients, this would be an incredibly time-consuming task.” The more practices that take up the system, the more they generate clear successful case studies. In turn, this shows other surgeries the


benefits they can draw for their own organisations. As it does so, confidence is growing and up take is on the rise.

Problems Even so, for all these benefits, the industry still has challenges to overcome. If it is to maintain a long-term viable position, it will need to overcome these key challenges. The market has become busy. This is good in terms of competition, but also means wide variation in terms of service quality. Standards of print production can vary wildly between different providers. As time goes on, market forces will weed out the lesser participants, but for now the selection of supplier will be crucial. A good choice will lead to an effective working relationship; the wrong one could lead to severe problems. The sector is in a considerable state of flux. Although hybrid mail as a concept is decades old it is only now that the technology is available to make it applicable on a wider scale. Looking to the future, plenty of experts

see it becoming a fundamental option for businesses of all kinds. However, this lucrative future is by no means assured. More and more GP practices are using hybrid mail, but it remains a small part of the overall landscape. Suppliers need to work with potential buyers to show what this technology can truly do for their business. The future then has considerable promise. Technology is helping hybrid mail providers offer an easily accessible and more reliable service to their customers. Information security is improving, giving medical practices crucial peace of mind when sending out delicate information. Most importantly, as budget cuts truly start to bite, hybrid mail is driving down cost while simultaneously improving efficiency. These benefits are not always straightforward to measure as they involve more than simply the cost savings of postage. They come in the freeing up of staff time, allowing them to be more productive. In terms of product sophistication and market demand, hybrid mail is a solution whose time has come. WWW.PRIMARYCAREREPORTS.CO.UK | 13


References: 1

Why General Practice is Such Good Value for Money:

General Practice Facing 20% Pay Cut:


The Best GP Surgeries are Facing the Biggest Cuts:


PMS Collapse Warning as Half of GP Surgeries in One Area Fear Closing Down:


Patients Wary of David Cameron’s Plans for Seven Day GP Services:


Doctors Respond to CQC Concerns About GP Practice Standards:


One in Seven GPs Forced to Make Redundancies:



Trial Admin Assistance To Reduce Workload:




Doctor Workload:


NHS Tops List for Serious Data Breaches Last Year:



Data Breaches in UK Healthcare Sector Doubled Since 2013:

Campaigners Warn GPs Face ÂŁ500,000 Fines:


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Primary Care Reports – Online Letter Printing & Mailing Solutions for Primary Care – CFH Docmail  

Primary Care – Online Letter Printing and Mailing Solutions for Primary Care

Primary Care Reports – Online Letter Printing & Mailing Solutions for Primary Care – CFH Docmail  

Primary Care – Online Letter Printing and Mailing Solutions for Primary Care