Mobile devices could be the key to improving the experience of outpatients in the NHS, as well as helping hospital managers keep on top of busy periods.
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This is the belief of John Williams, director of the health informatics unit at the Royal College of Physicians, who has been leading the Future Hospital Commission’s work on how IT could help in the health environment.
The report from the commission is not due until September 2013, but Williams shared some of the early findings of the group, including an inadequate and inefficient use of IT within the NHS.
“We should no longer think of a hospital as one site delivering all services,” he said. “Services for an individual patient are going to be dispersed over multiple sites, and that presents challenges from an information [and technology] perspective.”
Among the early guidance, Williams suggested mobile devices could be used by hospitals to deal with the deluge of data that managers face.
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“There are volumes of information held in hospitals, not only about individual patients, but about resources, waiting times, location of services and availability of staff. That all needs to be pulled together into a nerve centre,” he said.
“Clinicians and middle grade managers [then] have somewhere all the data is pulled together so that they can streamline those services. Data about the number of ambulances that are queuing up outside, the number of anticipated discharges, pulled together but not necessarily having to go to that nerve centre to view it. That should be transmitted to the clinician and the duty manager on a handheld device so that they can manage the service.”
Williams also believes patients could have their experience boosted by using the devices in their own pockets.
“[We need] greater use of handheld technologies, both by professionals and patients, and we should be using the patient’s own device or apps on their phone,” he said.
“[We should] recognise when they come into hospital as an outpatient, to tell them that their outpatient appointment is running a bit late, to go and get a cup of coffee, and maybe to complete a questionnaire on their phone about the things they want to raise with their doctor.
“We need to be innovative in the way we use existing and personal technology,” he concluded.