The new Lilie Hub: helping Sexual Health Services (SHS) manage their online appointment booking system with ease

When COVID-19 struck, the world went into reset mode and disrupted our normal way of life in a lot of ways. It also led to many unexpected positive changes – from nature bouncing back to the dramatic shift in flexible working. In addition, the lockdown was also a ‘game-changer’ for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – given that isolation meant people couldn’t have sex with new partners and pass on infections. Data reveals that the number of STIs in England fell by almost a third last year. But that statistic doesn’t provide the full picture.

The drop in STIs may be due to social distancing measures. However, experts suggest that it is also because fewer tests were conducted. According to Public Health England (PHE), diagnosis of STIs decreased in 2020 by 32% compared to 2019. This was further confirmed by Dr Mark Lawton, a sexual health consultant and spokesperson for the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), who commented, “We’ve undoubtedly seen a reduction in the number of people getting tested during the lockdown.” This is a point of concern, so what are the underlying reasons for fewer people getting tested and how can they be addressed?

Impact of COVID-19 on Sexual Health Services (SHS)

According to Dr John McSorley, president of BASHH, “COVID-19 has had a stark and concerning impact on SHS.” Disruption to health services due to the coronavirus outbreak contributed to a steep drop in STI diagnoses in the UK. 54% of UK SHS closed, and 38% of sexual health staff were moved to work in other parts of the NHS. Under government guidance, healthcare services were required to reduce avoidable footfall. Hence, SHS had to quickly adapt to the change in the type of appointments offered in order to protect patients and staff from the risk of infection. A vast reduction in face-to-face consultations were replaced by telephone appointments only. As a result, patients faced consistent problems with booking appointments for regular sexual health check-ups, treatments, and medication reviews. When phoning services, longer waiting times and not being sure when their healthcare provider would call back left patients feeling anxious. Plus, as the pandemic progressed, there were fewer consultations for patients aged less than 25 years – an age group where STIs are most common due to behavioural, biological, and cultural reasons.

Rise in STIs post lockdown underlines the need for urgent action

With the focus on coronavirus-positive patients, clearly, there was a reduction in testing for HIV and STIs by SHS and specialised HIV services. Besides, there was the additional fear of catching COVID-19 which also caused people to delay care and not receive the treatment they needed to manage their condition. Together, it led to the increased spread of infections. Consequently, as clinics reopen, STI rates are again on the rise. With restrictions easing, treatment for STIs is soaring. “We’re seeing a resurgence of all the traditional STIs”, adds Dr Jane Dickson, a consultant in sexual and reproductive healthcare at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board in Newport, South Wales. So, what action can be taken to combat this continued rise in infections?

Lilie Hub: digitising appointment bookings for SHS

If only booking medical appointments was as simple as booking a flight or a movie ticket, STIs could have been managed better – irrespective of the pandemic. That’s where Lilie Hub comes in – facilitating online engagement between patients and SHS.

Lilie Hub is a new, innovative, browser-based patient appointment booking system for SHS that helps more people get tested – conveniently, securely, and confidentially. It allows patients to book and cancel appointments and provides them with a choice of when they want an appointment booked in and where – be that telephone or face-to-face consultations, where appropriate. Patients can access Lilie Hub via a web browser on their laptop, tablet, or smartphone and have at-a-glance information about what facilities the service offers. Medical staff and clinicians can prioritise and deliver care according to patient preference and needs. By empowering patients to manage their own appointments, Lilie Hub aims to free up clinical and administrative resources, making sure staff are available to focus on operational efficiencies and improved care delivery.

Accelerating remote care for SHS

The idea behind Lilie Hub is to help SHS provide as much care as possible to the patient – conveniently. To facilitate this, Lilie Hub allows services to configure booking reasons for patients to choose from – thus ensuring they’re booked into the appropriate clinic. It also enables SHS to triage patients – allowing the patient to answer appropriate questions (if required) outside of the consultation appointment. The Online Dynamic Forms for Lilie Hub – designed for triage questions and to be completed by patients whilst booking an appointment – results in reduced consultation time spent by clinical staff.

Empowering patients with self-help choices

Harnessing the power of online digital services, Lilie Hub offers a discrete, self-service to help manage the patient journey confidentially and with ease. It allows patients to contact their service via a link from the SHS Lilie Hub website, book and cancel an appointment, and answer clinically relevant information (triage).

By enabling patients to create an account and log on to change personal details, contact restrictions, and previous/current appointment information, Lilie Hub helps update patient records and streamline existing workflows for SHS – subsequently cutting down administrative time. Furthermore, the Identity Management Service embedded within Lilie Hub enables patient matching to aid the reduction in duplicate patient records.

Scaling up digital services to combat STIs

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, most SHS offered face-to-face/ telephone or walk-in options for booking appointments. However, with the introduction of Lilie’s new online booking facilities, access to care is changing – making it easier for SHS to deliver faster and more efficient care. Digitising appointment bookings not only helps patients and care providers set their schedules but also saves time, reduces error, improves organisational efficiency, and enhances the patient experience. And nowadays, with just about everyone having a smartphone in their pocket and less time than ever, it’s inevitable that platforms like Lilie Hub will transform the way SHS work – positively affecting patient lives.

For more information on Lilie Hub, click here or contact us at [email protected].

Published on: 4 November 2021

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