Five easy ways to raise awareness about care navigation in your GP practice 

By David Cowan – care navigation programme manager, West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing 

It was the German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus who first discovered the forgetting curve and how as humans, we forget two thirds of what we learn 24 hours later. It's easy to see why when you consider how many times you look at your smartphone each day. Emails, notifications, interesting articles; I find it all starts to blur into one and that’s before you even try to remember what you're upto this weekend with the family! So I can totally relate to the practice managers I meet that tell me they're worried about implementing care navigation because their patients might not 'get it'. 

New stuff takes time to learn for all of us. A wise communications colleague of mine once told me it all comes down to repetition. Just like when we were at school, we need a constant drip-through of information, over a sustained time, for our brains to commit vital information to memory. It also really helps if it's memorable, relatable and doesn't just blend into the slurry of messages we get bombarded with on a daily basis. 

Let's face it, as practice staff our time is limited. We want patients to work with us when it comes to rolling out active signposting successfully but without a bit of forethought, (a poster won't save you now!) you're setting yourself up for failure from the start. So here's five really easy, tried and tested marketing tips from when we first introduced care navigation in Wakefield to get you started: 

Record a voice message for your phonelines 
It's important to let patients know about care navigation before it starts. As soon as you start your care navigation training, start to warm up your patients to change. One great method we found is to record a voice message for your practice phone line.  

Encourage one or two of the GPs to record the message for you with something along the lines of; "Hello my name is Dr ….. and I am the senior partner at (practice name). You will shortly be put through to the reception staff. We have asked the receptionist to ask you if you wouldn’t mind telling them a little about the problem you are calling about today. This is simply so they can direct you to the person who would be most suitable to help you with your problem. Of course, you don’t have to do this, but it would help us to help you and other patients. Thank you very much”. 

The messenger is the most important factor in this communication. Patients feel more confident hearing from their GP and receptionists feel more confident to ask questions and care navigate if the GP has spoken the message. It's also great for patients that don't visit the practice often who might not be aware of the new process.  

Design a colourful poster 
I joked about a poster not cutting it before but that's because I see a lot of practice posters that are poorly designed and carry too much detail.  

On our care navigation training, we share an excellent poster template with you that worked really well in Wakefield. NHS Nene CCG adapted it and created a really cracking version in my opinion. The GPs love getting involved with the design of this poster let me tell you! I would recommend not choosing a GP that is due to retire though as you will need to redo it again.  

If you want to have a go at designing your own poster in practice, just remember to keep it bright, short and sweet and use large font so that people around the waiting room can see it. A few copies strategically scattered around the waiting room can work wonders. 

Add details to your GP TV screens 
If you've created a poster and have TV screens in practice that you manage, why not use the same design to recreate for TV? We simply used a Powerpoint slide in Wakefield and made sure we used high-resolution images so they displayed correctly. Same rules apply; keep it short and sweet and if you can't fit all the info on to one slide, use three or four slides instead. Don't forget to add it on loop too. 

If you're feeling a little more adventurous, you could also use a smartphone to create a short 30-45 sec video featuring your GPs explaining why we need to do care navigation. Again, we created one in Wakefield which you can view here. Get in touch with me if you need any how-to technical advice. 

Drop leaflets into the community 
A great idea tried by one of the GP practices I have worked with involved leafleting in the local community. They printed the details about receptionists asking about the patient's query on one side of A4 and then added a Patient Online registration form on the back to encourage online registrations (a key NHS target) at the same time.  

The leaflets were then distributed to the local schools, the community centre, the library and the local pharmacies; all key footfall areas for local patients. Very easy win! 

Use your digital communications  
If you have a website, social media channels or SMS text messaging capability in your practice, care navigation messages can be easily repeated using these methods.  

You could create a scrolling graphic banner and a short bit of copy for your website homepage in the beginning or if you have a practice Facebook Page, why not share a quick smartphone video of your GP explaining the new process every now and again?  
Increase your reach and spread the word by sharing your social media update with active community groups and other local Facebook Pages too.  

What do you think to those suggestions? Implementing care navigation should be easier if you get patients onboard from the start and use a combination of some of the ideas I've mentioned. Remember to repeat, repeat, repeat and let us know about any other ideas that are working well for you. 

Wishing you all the best in your care navigation journey!