South Tyneside NHS Trust has begun its paperless journey by moving its board meetings to the cloud using Huddle for iPad.
The trust has reduced its paper output by 100 reams a month by introducing Apple iPads to the boardroom.
The board members are dispersed across the borough, which posed challenges in creating, collaborating and sharing monthly board packs, that are often 600 pages long. The feedback and approval process via email only caused confusion over who had made what changes to the document.
Board members can now access documents via the cloud collaboration service securely through their tablet devices.
Martin Alexander, director of information services at South Tyneside NHS Trust, says the organisation chose iPads because they were already used by a number of board members who had opted to use their tablets under the trust’s bring your own device (BYOD) scheme.
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The trust purchased an initial 20 iPads for a user group of 30 people, consisting of 26 board members who were already familiar with the widely used consumer device. Additionally, the iPads were already regarded as a secure platform.
Secure document sharing
Using Huddle for iPad means the trust can share documents securely as the cloud supplier is part of the G-Cloud service agreement, and is pan-government accredited at IL2 with a UK datacentre. This means data resides in the UK, which fulfils the trust’s requirements for data protection.
Huddle saw a 132% increase in UK public sector contracts last year, with its NHS contracts increasing by 44%.
The Huddle system is simple to use and easy to learn
Martin Alexander, South Tyneside NHS Trust
Alexander says having a trusted product in the NHS is also important for communication with local and central government as the process of moving social and community healthcare services to local government begins.
But importantly, the system was simple to use and easy to learn for the board members, who have great demands on their time.
Alexander says the Huddle software was very easy to adopt, and the “hardest thing was getting the iPad out of the box”.
The trust expects to see a return on investment in Huddle’s system and the hardware within a year. “Even if we rolled out full-scale [155 managers], we’d expect a payback within two years,” says Alexander.
The next step is for all of the trust's consultants to have devices as part of its digital health strategy, he says.
Putting digital health plans into action
While the board’s achievement of going paperless is part of the digital business strategy, the trust has also dived into delivering its clinical digital health strategy by implementing Windows 8 smartphones on wards in the borough's hospitals and developing its own apps.
The trust has also got rid of marker pens on wards by implementing an electronic whiteboard system. Patients who are admitted appear on the digital whiteboard and are tracked as they receive treatment and move through the hospital.
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“It’s fantastic for infection control, being about to see an audit trail end-to-end,” says Alexander.
The trust shares the development of applications between its in-house IT and a local outsourced developer. The in-house IT team developed an award-winning electronic system called Hydra for managing patients, built with Microsoft’s SQL in the background.
Alexander says the whole world of application development has changed, with platforms such as Microsoft’s Visual Studio making developing apps very straightforward. “We often scratch our heads at the millions other spend,” he says.
Alexander credits his very forward-thinking chief executive with the way the trust is embracing digital. “It’s important to have a really forward-thinking chief exec, chairman and board support,” he says.
“The chief exec has her own iPad and is embracing technology. It’s driven from the top down.”
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