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The infographic below shows the percentage of doctors and nurses who own a smartphone or tablet (British Medical Journal, October 2015).
NHS England, NHS Digital (formerly HSCIC) and NHS Improvement support the increased use of mobile working and technologies within the NHS. The use of mobile technology can be crucial to releasing time to care, improving care quality and efficient working practices. Digitising the way healthcare staff work is vital to enable changes to the way patients interact with the NHS.
Streamline service models
By taking advantage of the features and functions of devices such as tablets and smartphones, and having access to software applications, staff can find ways to streamline service models. See examples below where mobile technology has been adopted across NHS trusts, creating new and innovative working practices, and helping to improve patient care.
Mobile device deployment at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) has deployed 6500 mobile devices to their clinical staff to enable implementation of electronic observations. The wide availability of mobile devices, highly engaged clinical teams and in-house developers brought huge opportunity to develop bespoke applications to benefit clinicians and patients.
Along with the Care Navigator and Clinical Guidelines applications, NUH has developed an app called Safer Staffing. This simple and quick to use tool allows the trust to see an accurate, live nurse staffing position across more than 85 wards and departments including maternity, critical care areas and the children's hospital. The app reports – in real-time – the fill rate and skill mix, and highlights whether a ward has high numbers of bank and/or agency staff. The application asks the nurse in charge to declare if, in their judgement, the ward is safe to deliver the required level of care to the current patient group with the available staff on duty. This allows any member of staff to see how safe the nursing teams consider staffing levels to be and, therefore, enables the trust to see where support is required.
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“It really gets people looking at staffing so they are a lot more aware of the level of dependency of patients on the ward and whether we have enough staff. It is not just about how many staff are on but whether the staff are able to look after the patients safely. When you are short-staffed it’s beneficial to know that it can be flagged up immediately.“
Claire Roberts, Deputy Sister, NUH
“It is so important to capture the professional opinion of the staff at the heart of delivering care. They know the wards and can make the best judgement about staffing levels.”
Caron Swinscoe, Chief Nurse Health Informatics, NUH
Mobile device deployment at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
Staff within the Speech and Language Therapy department at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust used their existing applications on mobile devices to improve interactions with patients.
- Speech and language therapists (SLT) used a tablet application that allowed a child to talk directly into the device and then playback their voice. This allowed the SLT and child to hear back the child’s pronunciation of words and judge how accurately they had spoken.
- The camera function on the tablet was used to record videos of parents interacting with their child during a speech therapy session. These were then played back to parents to use as a self-monitoring tool for parents to assess their own performance in their child’s language development.
SLTs were able to recommend applications that are available for parents to purchase, access for free or, download lite-versions (software application with limited functionality).
Software applications allow an SLT to informally assess a child’s progress through a game, making the session more enjoyable and engaging.
“By using our mobile devices we have been able to significantly improve our working practices and innovate to deliver services more effectively for patients.”
Speech and language therapist, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
There are many other ways in which mobile working can directly affect patients, staff and NHS trusts. For example:
- patients can self-monitor through their tablet or smartphone and communicate remotely with their healthcare practitioner
- software applications allow for better communication between colleagues and departments - using messaging tools and emails
- the organisation has the opportunity to modernise, develop more streamlined service models and empower the mobile workforce to increase productivity, thereby developing staff skills in IT
Building on the National Information Board (NIB) commitment that all patient and care records will be digital, real-time and interoperable by 2020, dedicated support will be available for pioneer trusts to produce their digital roadmaps. One of the main aims is to use the available technology to address some of the most complex issues facing patients and healthcare practitioners. This will give staff further opportunities to innovate and streamline service models.
The increase in the number of NHS trusts adopting mobile working practices is redefining the way that the NHS delivers care by embracing the new mobile working culture; the NHS can take this opportunity to transform how healthcare practitioners deliver their services. This will also positively change attitudes towards how technology can be accepted, implemented and used across an entire organisation.