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The promise of patient relationship management



The experience of Brighton’s Virtual Fracture Clinic shows that a commodity IT platform can provide the NHS with an innovative new approach to patient care, writes Simon Clayton, health lead, Microsoft UK.

Despite the squeeze on its resources and steady increase in demand for its services, the NHS still has a responsibility to provide both good care and a good experience for its patients.

Many commercial organisations have focused on using customer relationship management (CRM) systems to provide consumers with a good purchasing experience. While it has different priorities, there is still plenty of scope for the health service to use the same technology to build effective models for patient relationship management.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust has already set a convincing precedent in using the CRM capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics 365 to set up its Virtual Fracture Clinic. This has removed the need for many patients to visit the hospitals for treatment, enabling them to obtain consultant and physio input, specific injury management plans and generic advice through an online portal.

It has provided significant savings for the trust – the cost of a virtual referral is £67 against twice that for an appointment at the hospital – but more importantly it has provided a better experience for the patient and helped the organisation to manage their care more effectively.


Patient benefits have included: knowing their treatment will be managed by a consultant and physio team with specific expertise in their injury type; having continual access to an injury management plan; being able to alert the care teams of any problems without waiting for a new appointment; and knowing a clinician will monitor the information they provide on their recovery.

It has also given the trust the CRM features that are valuable in healthcare: the ability to record data on patient satisfaction; to benchmark its performance; to identify trends in the success of treatment for different injuries; to collect data on injury types, consultant workloads and patient quality outcomes; and to use the platform to manage workflows.

In the case of the Virtual Fracture Clinic, it led to the orthopaedic department at the trust achieving an ‘outstanding’ rating in the most recent Care Quality Commission report. And the model could be easily adapted for other types of treatment throughout the NHS: there is scope for other trusts to use it without going through a long and painful process of ‘reinventing the wheel’.

The fact that it makes use of the Dynamics 365 platform means that it does not require any custom code. The platform has a range of ‘out of the box’ capabilities and can be easily configured to support a set of processes.


The work done by the Brighton and Sussex Hospitals team has provided a template that could be adapted and re-used by departments handling a range of treatments. The team has even developed an adoption pack for other NHS trusts and clinics that includes a template business case, service specification agreements for clinical commissioning groups, a Gantt chart task schedule; and a guide to what should be in and out of scope when embarking on a virtual clinic programme.

The costs of implementation are consequently much lower than for many healthcare systems, and as the experience of the Virtual Fracture Clinic shows, can provide a return on investment within weeks.

In addition, Dynamics 365 is enabled for operation in the cloud and scalable for different customers, so it could work for small or large teams providing specialised care across patient populations. Whilst it maintains the focus on customer engagement and relationship management it has the flexibility to meet the needs of people as NHS patients.

This lays the foundation for a successful transformation in healthcare. In the way that customer relationship management has become a bedrock of many commercial operations, patient relationship management could become one of the pillars of the NHS, bringing the combination of organisational efficiencies, high quality care and a better experience for patients.

The technology is here. Now NHS organisations need to learn and follow the lead from the Brighton and Sussex Virtual Fracture Clinic.

To watch presentations and interviews from a recent NHS innovation conference on the Virtual Fracture Clinic, click here.

 Image by jfcherry, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr

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