Many GP surgeries across the country offer patients the ability to book their appointments in the NHS App. Online appointment booking enables patients to access primary care digitally, which eases pressure on GP surgery staff, who are facing the extreme clinical challenges of the coronavirus pandemic during the already difficult winter months.
As a default, appointments were bookable up to 8 weeks in advance in the NHS App. However, we received feedback from GP surgeries that making appointments bookable further in advance would allow them to better manage their clinics and help maintain social distancing in their surgeries.
This clinical need prompted our work to improve the appointment booking process in the NHS App. As a first step, we made appointments bookable up to 16 weeks in advance to accommodate their request.
That was just the beginning of our work to improve the process, however.
GP surgeries are not the main users of the NHS App – people, like you and me, across England are, so this is who we had to ensure the appointment booking process works for. Plus, with the added layer of complexity around the pandemic, we could not safely assume that our users would interact with the NHS App in the same way as we have seen previously.
We had to consider how our users interact with the app, and what they expect to happen when they book appointments. We used the principles of user-centred design to guide our work, and user stories were a useful method to first define the things a user would need.