Harnessing the Power of Mobile Technology: Creating Time to Care

Posted by Rachael Pullen on April 25, 2013

Recently I was forwarded an article about how mobile technology is going to revolutionise the health care industry. The article was really interesting; the author explained how the latest mobile technology is transforming the way that the health care industry uses mobile technology to diagnose and treat patients faster and how patients themselves with chronic conditions can use that technology to link with their doctors and share real time information – like cardiac monitoring – a potentially lifesaving example.

Current initiatives in the NHS such as Releasing Time to Care (1) have highlighted the need for healthcare to become more efficient and streamlined, whilst maintaining time spent with patients. Providing health care staff with new mobile solutions and by assisting them to mobilise their roles can help NHS Trusts achieve this goal.

In the UK, the NHS is beginning to adopt mobile technology through the Mobile Health Worker Project (MHWP). The project was set up to understand the requirements of mobile working for health professionals and to identify whether it could increase productivity and efficiency. It involved health professionals from eight of the ten Strategic Health Authorities in England and was completed in February 2012. Those involved in the project were given the Panasonic Toughbook – the same device used by many service providers such as utility organisations – and the teams were made up of 764 health professionals and involved collating data from 107,000 patient contacts over 22,000 days.

The results were staggering. One site showed that data duplication was reduced by 92%, freeing up time for clinical care whilst another saw a 104% increase in time spent with patients. As both an ex-NHS worker and a current NHS patient I believe any system that can increase efficiency of healthcare whilst increasing patient contact time can only be a success. It’s simply a no-brainer.

The results also showed a 50% reduction in unnecessary admissions and referrals, with NHS Tower Hamlets resulting in a forecast saving of £16,707 per year per health professional. Journey and travel time was also reduced and the health professionals involved in the trial reported a significant improvement in work-life balance as well as improved use of time as they were able to access policies, procedures and emails on mobile devices in between visits. Reductions in travel time will help NHS Trusts cut their carbon footprint, helping to meet the Health Improvement, Efficiency, Access to Services and Treatment (HEAT) target set by the Department of Health to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption.

Enterprise mobility is not a new concept and it is one that has been used in other sectors for a long time. Modern mobile technology is revolutionising the way that we interact and share information. By harnessing the power of the latest mobile technologies healthcare workers will no longer have to make unnecessary visits to collect records and paperwork required throughout the day; instead they can exchange data in real-time, and if no signal is available they have the ability to read and record information and synchronise when they next encounter mobile network coverage. With modern mobile, VPN technologies such as BirdStep SafeMove or Cisco AnyConnect, they could even use Wi-Fi to securely sync information using military grade encryption.

The right mobile strategy is essential – but by getting it right you can improve the outcomes for both patients and health workers. It’s surely time for the NHS to embrace mobile and reap the same benefits that many private and public sector industries enjoy.

1. Releasing time to care – The Productive Ward focuses on improving ward processes and environments to help nurses and therapists spend more time on patient care thereby improving safety and efficiency.