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Case study: South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust in big push on mobile working

Healthcare trust works to digitise records and increase mobile working in acute and community settings

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust is about halfway down the road to going paperless – a target it has to achieve by 2020.

As part of its programme to drive digital ways of working, the trust is increasingly encouraging mobile working among staff both inside and outside the hospital.

The organisation, which delivers both acute and community services, has gone for a best-of-breed approach to electronic patient records, using the Silverlink patient administration system in the acute setting and rolling out Emis Web in the community.

To go paperless, the foundations must be built first, says the trust’s IT director, Martin Alexander.

“We need to make sure we have the infrastructure and processes in place, and fully define what we mean by paperless,” he says.

The key to driving efficiency is collaboration and digital records, says Alexander.

“I would love to get rid of our library of paper patient records, but that will only happen through collaboration,” he adds.

By enabling real-time communication between front-line staff and eventually giving them access to electronic records at the point of care, the trust aims to increase collaboration and reduce paperwork.

As part of this transformation, the trust is focusing on digitising key processes such as referrals, and has begun scanning records as they come into the organisation.

The other part of the initiative is to get the systems out to staff in a “mobile way”, says Alexander.

Read more about mobile technology in the NHS

The trust is working with Good Technology, using its collaboration suite to securely mobilise existing applications and content to staff. Employees are being given access to the trust’s intranet on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, he says. 

Community nursing involves a large number of protocols, which are printed out on paper. These protocols often change and any new ones have to be printed and distributed. Digitising the protocols and making them available on mobile devices not only saves on printing, but also ensures the latest version is always available, says Alexander.

“If a nurse is going to someone’s house and doing a falls assessment, there is a form for that,” he says. “By making it available on the intranet, which they can access on a mobile device anywhere, it’s a lot more efficient.”

Nurses also spend a lot of time away from patients, attending meetings. Using the trust’s mobile collaboration suite, they can access documents and share up-to-date plans and new policies on care with each other.

Reduce admin work

“If we can reduce admin work for each person by 30 minutes, that  could generate £2m in efficiency savings and the quality of care gets better,” he says.

“We’ve got around 300 users of the Good Technology so far. The big push is coming over the next three months. We plan to deploy a further 800 iPads and get the majority of district nurses mobile in the next 12 months.”

In the hospital, nurses already use electronic handovers, but use the computer to enter the information to the electronic whiteboard. “We have got to have a mobile solution – it just makes things a lot simpler,” says Alexander.

The trust also has a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, which gives users secure access to the trust’s intranet and systems on their own smartphones or tablets.

Read more on Healthcare and NHS IT

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One thing medical personnel need is education in the use of technology. With obile mobile software for healthare, the application must be easy to use where training is simple and people can find what they are looking for, espeially when nurses for example are out on a house visit and will need to be able to have immediate assistance with the software and the device. Secutiry of data will be an obvious need and the best way is proprietary devices communicating through specific communiarion servers. However this is the most expensive way to implemnt but the performance woould also be at the highest quality as well as secure. If people are using software on their own device, there's no guarantee that connecting to a network can't be hacked into to get private data. To get around this, the hospital or medical facility provides its workers with devices and have strict policiesand procedures about downloading other apps as a way to control the security. Another condern, using web code for the software means that performance won't be of highest quality. Reusable code means it's easily hackable.
Battery drain of the app as well as the temperature of the device can affect the data on a mobile device. Testing mobile medical software takes special knowledge and cannot just be automated and considered complete test coverage. Too often companies think functional testing is enough for medical software specifically on mobile devices. Testers need to be critical thinkers and consider the users and the user conditions to test the mobile app. These conditions cannot always be automated.