NHS trust improves processes with secure iPad apps

The Stockport NHS Foundation Trust has boosted efficiency and cut delays and costs using secure applications on tablet computers

The Stockport NHS Foundation Trust has boosted efficiency and cut delays and costs using secure applications on tablet computers.

The switch to mobile devices was aimed at eliminating all paper-based processes and ensuring the right healthcare professionals had the right patient information at the right time.

The mobility project was also designed to show where patients were in hospitals, what stage they had reached in their treatment, their medical history and who was responsible for their care.

“We wanted to capture their progress through the casualty department at the Stepping Hill Hospital, and the assessments and interventions they had in real time,” said Ian Curr, the then assistant director of information at the trust.

On top of that, he said, there was a requirement for management statistical data on throughput of patients to identify pressure areas and bottlenecks to ensure NHS targets on treatment are met.

“We also wanted people like capacity managers to see what was going on so, if a patient was admitted into a particular specialty, the bed managers could expedite that request in the background,” said Curr.

To achieve these goals, while ensuring all patient data was adequately protected, the trust implemented an enterprise mobility management system from AirWatch.

In addition to password and time-out enforcement, the system is used to protect data on around 250 mobile devices by ensuring patient data is not compromised or lost.

“If a device is lost or stolen, all sensitive data can be wiped remotely,” said Curr.

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As well as basic data protection requirements, Curr said AirWatch met the trust’s requirements to configure and restrict capabilities on the devices, such as the camera, and to track the devices.

“We needed the ability to manage a whole set of corporate devices from a central point to give appropriate configuration to each device and deploy software remotely,” said Curr.

The trust needed to deploy customised wallpaper to each device to show its asset tag number, which was hidden by the rugged device covers used by the trust.

Based on these requirements, the trust was able to reduce its initial list of around eight potential products down to around four.

Trialling products

The next step in the selection process was to do a pilot study as the top three products had very similar capabilities.

“The ease with which we were able to get a pilot up and running with AirWatch is what led us to begin our assessment with their product,” said Curr.

Unlike the other products on the shortlist, the trust was able to run a pilot from AirWatch’s website without any upfront investment.

“Once we established that the product met all the security and management requirements at a reasonable cost, we went ahead with an implementation without doing any other pilots,” said Curr.

Crucially, the product enabled the trust to control access to the mobile devices, including being able to specify the strength of passwords required.

Previously, delivering summary records to GPS was time-consuming and could cause delays in providing doctors with vital information

“AirWatch was the most supportive and helpful of all the suppliers under consideration in providing access to technical people,” he said.

The decision to standardise Apple’s iPad was based on it being quick to boot up and ready for use, and its long battery life.

Besides the productivity and efficiency gains from increased visibility of patient information, the move to mobile devices enabled several time and cost savings for the trust.

By deploying the trust’s in-house application to improve accuracy and access to patient data, it is saving around £38,000 a year in printing costs.

The app collects bookings every 60 seconds from the reception system, passes the information to a large screen in the emergency department and transmits to every mobile device in the department.

The introduction of mobile devices has also helped the emergency department meet quality targets such as alcohol screening of all adult patients, which alone is worth £320,000 a year in incentives.

Significant time saving has been enabled through the ability to generate and deliver full discharge summary records to GPs instantly. Stockport NHS trust is one of the few that have this capability.

“Previously this process was time-consuming and could cause delays in providing doctors with vital information,” said Curr.

This capability could be ported easily to other emergency departments around the country, he said, because they are all managed on the same model.

While Curr has moved on to other mobile challenges at an NHS trust in Manchester, the Stockport trust’s leadership plan to build on the mobile initiative by equipping traveling nurses with tablet computers.

This will enable them to access medical data and to record their interaction with patients in the field to further improve the exchange of information between the community and the hospital.

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