A BCS publication for health informatics professionals has reported how carers in Glasgow are using Blackberry handheld devices to provide a better standard of care for their patients.
The technology enables council staff who care for the elderly and infirm to respond more quickly to emergency referrals and "home from hospital" requests.
Brendan Murphy, head of ICT and marketing for Direct and Care Services at Glasgow City Council, said, "In the past, mobile home carers were required to visit one of nine local offices throughout the city looking for detailed fax messages with details of the client to attend and provide a home care service.
"This method was prone to error, was costly and inefficient. The home carer and client were often provided with little useful information, making the first few visits to a new client fraught with difficulty."
By deploying more than 400 Blackberries, the council said it has been able to capture more accurate client data. Managers also have instant e-mail access to their frontline workforce.
This initiative has brought managers closer to their clients and to lone workers in the field. Lone workers feel less isolated, and the IT skill level of this staff group has increased greatly, said the council.
Home carers in Glasgow typically have little exposure to IT, so training them was a vital part of the mobile roll-out. Post-training, home carers also have access to an IT support team member and drop-in sessions are available daily. These are put together as "how do I do this?" sessions, and cover issues such as changing the configuration of the Blackberry.
"A focus group of six home carers was initially brought together for an informal meeting to assess previous exposure to technology and to determine the best way to train and deploy more than 400 units. This was highly successful, and the carers decided that implementation should be supported by bringing staff together in small groups to offer a hands-on experience," Murphy said.
The BCS publication said the training of this workforce may be seen as a blueprint for training operatives who have limited IT skills. Hands-on sessions allow a focus on usage to take place and immediate post-training deployment ensures that skills are not forgotten.
● This article first appeared in HINow, the quarterly BCS magazine for health informatics professionals.