By Robin Stride
A new national initiative from online IT solutions experts promises to transform private healthcare access by easing the hassle of booking appointments with private doctors and hospitals.
Healthcode’s integrated channel exchange (ICE) system is due to go live in September
With final testing of Healthcode’s integrated channel exchange (ICE) underway, the company’s managing director Peter Connor hailed the development as ‘a game-changer for our sector and for patients’.
He said: ‘At a time when demand for private healthcare is growing, it makes sense to have a booking process that’s efficient, convenient, secure and accurate, rather than something that demands perseverance and patience from users.’
Providers will be able to share real-time services and availability information so people can find what they need and make an online appointment.
The first sector-wide booking system, being tested with hospitals and insurers, is due to go live on 1 September.
A launch event in London attracted a strong turnout from stakeholders and answered many of their questions.
ICE was developed to replace ‘multiple and disparate booking processes’ used across the sector, from paper-based admin to one-off IT solutions built for individual providers or software systems.
The developer says this fragmented approach does not meet today’s patients’ needs or expectations and often proves labour- intensive and prone to inaccuracy like double-booking.
It labels most booking processes as inefficient, resulting in poor patient experience, empty appointment slots, wasted admin time and missed revenue.
Inspired by travel sector
Healthcode, inspired by online booking technology evolution in the travel sector, has responded with a bespoke Global Distribution System (GDS) – seen as the hidden engine room powering the booking process for private healthcare.
ICE allows providers, insurers and booking sites to link to a central hub to securely exchange and sync live information about services and availability. Private doctors will not have to change their front face booking system.
Third-party users – patients, GPs, insurers and call centres – can use their choice of booking site to search the network to find free slots and then book their appointment.
The provider’s diary system then automatically updates so the slot is no longer available.
Healthcode predicts it will process a record 10m invoices this year after reaching 4.9m before the end of June.
Mr Connor told the launch event that business was ‘almost off the scale for us: 25% up on last year and 15% up on 2021’.
Most of the bookings for these treatments were likely to have been by phone rather than the greater choice offered by online.
He said ICE would make a ‘massive impact on our sector’ with its benefits transferring directly to patients.
Two major hospital groups, two major insurers and ‘a lot of independent hospitals’ were already committed to use ICE. Its fee structure has not yet been disclosed.
Mr Connor said the development was true to the firm’s principles:
Using interoperable technology so that different organisations can connect seamlessly;
Meeting recognised data standards;
Encouraging industry collaboration in the interests of patients;
Finding innovative ways to work more efficiently within the private healthcare sector.