Dr. Charlotte Lee-Sinclair

Head of Commercial

Jun 19, 2023

How patient flow software can take the headache out of mental health

A road through Dunes.

According to NHS Improvement, the term patient flow refers to the ability of healthcare systems to manage patients effectively and with minimal delays as they move through different stages.

Managing patient flow successfully is crucial in the delivery of quality, efficient care and impacts everything from patient experience to staff pressures, influencing the entire patient journey from initial referral through to discharge.

Ideally, patients should move from one step in their care to the next without delay, which is known as continuous flow. However, with the need for Talking Therapies increasing year on year, mental health services are overstretched and overburdened - which makes patient flow in mental health care an ongoing challenge.

In a bid to manage patient flow within mental health, more and more trusts have been turning to technology and patient flow software to modernise processes and improve patient flow. Here’s how patient flow software such as Limbic Access can help to take the headache out of mental health…

5 ways patient flow software can help NHS Talking Therapies

Improving patient flow across mental health services and Talking Therapies can be beneficial to both patients and staff in many ways, from improving clinical outcomes and the overall experience of patients to eliminating waits and delays:

1. Improved processes with streamlined referrals

Following a self-referral to Talking Therapies, patients traditionally have to wait for admin teams to check their suitability before they are then contacted to arrange an assessment. What’s more, once contacted, there would then be another wait whilst their suitability was assessed, and the right pathway for assessment was identified.

Such outdated methods easily lead to hold up and delays in referrals, and increased waiting times mean that services can quickly become overburdened, which is detrimental to both employees and patients. What’s more, there is also the possibility of information loss and human error when referring patients, too.

However, patient flow software and e-triage solutions can streamline the referral process by automatically screening patients and screening out unsuitable referrals who will then be guided towards the right service for them. As such, when referrals do come in, they are more likely to be eligible for the service, significantly reducing the burden of admin staff.

2. Enhanced clinical safety due to risk management and AI triage

Another useful feature of patient flow software and AI chatbots is that they can be used to indicate the urgency and priority of each case and ensure that people are then signposted to the right care.

For example, Limbic Access can be personalised to ask the right risk questions for the level of service, so that those who are high risk can be easily identified and instantly directed to an appropriate service where they can seek the right support immediately.

In addition, patients who are identified as medium risk can also automatically be sent out a crisis leaflet with the numbers of who to call should they deteriorate further. The Talking Therapies team will also be alerted to those determined to be of risk so they can be suitably prioritised.

3. Reaching targets outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan

Poor patient flow mapping is one of the biggest reasons that targets are missed. However, by using patient flow software and managing the patient journey in a real-time digital environment, IAPTs can deliver the right care, to the right patient, at the right time, allowing Talking Therapies services to hit NHS targets.

Unlike a physical clinic, AI technology is available 24/7, enabling people to begin referral at any time of day or night, whenever they are having health-seeking behaviour. This improved access has resulted in a 30% increase in referrals, enabling IAPTs to deliver against NHS access and six week treatment targets.

In addition, AI chatbots are also available in multiple languages, are optimised for the visually impaired, and use simple, conversational language for optimum user experience and access.

4. Improved patient experience thanks to better therapy sessions

From initial referral to discharge, the aim of patient flow software is to improve the patient experience throughout every point of their journey - and having access to the right information and necessary data makes all the difference.

With an AI chatbot such as Limbic Access, everyone involved in a patient’s care can access the same critical information. Using the data collected during the referral process, AI technology can provide clinicians with IAPT minimum data sets, enabling clinicians to undertake more in-depth sessions and focus on building patient relationships.

Having access to this information means that clinicians can then focus on supporting the patient without being swamped by paperwork yet can still use the referral data to clarify important details. This results in richer discussions with the patient from the initial session and throughout the duration of the treatment.

This significantly frees up clinicians’ time, with Mind Matters, a Talking Therapies service utilising Limbic Access, reporting that within the first 12 months of using Limbic, they will have released over 30,000 clinical hours - or the equivalent clinical time of four PWPs. As well as being beneficial for patients, this has had a significant impact on staff wellbeing and retention, too.

5. Improved outcomes with support as patients transition out of care

As well as supporting patients by streamlining the referral process and enabling richer therapy sessions, patient flow software can also act as a mobile therapy assistant to support them whilst they are waiting for treatment to begin by checking in with patients daily to ensure they remain engaged and reduce dropouts.

Throughout their treatment, chatbots such as Limbic are also available 24/7, whether a patient needs assistance with CBT exercises or wants to talk through their feelings. Plus, patients can also create mood journals and identify key patterns in their behaviour that can be viewed by their therapists ahead of their next session, again enhancing the patient experience and delivering improved sessions.

Finally, once therapy is complete, AI chatbots can help recovered patients to transition out of care by creating a personalised suite of coping strategies and relapse prevention toolkits that they can refer to, resulting in improved clinical outcomes.


In summary, there are a number of benefits of patient flow software for mental health and NHS Talking Therapies including reduced wait times, streamlined referrals and improved access, resulting in a flow of continuous care as patients move from one stage of their treatment to the next.

To find out more about Limbic Access and how it can improve patient flows for mental health services, contact the team today.