Back in 2011, the Department of Health published a progress report from its National Mobile Health Worker Project, which was designed to examine the potential technical and business benefits of mobile working in community health services.
It’s interesting to note that while the technology has evolved since then (for example, the report refers to the use of ruggedised laptops, and states that tablets computers were not suitable for the project at the time - showing just how quickly mobile technology has evolved in the past four years) the challenges of integrating mobile into the day-to-day running of the NHS remain consistent.
The MHWP pilot study found a number of benefits from implementing mobile solutions in the NHS. Primarily, mobile technology enables staff to make more efficient use of their time, spending less time (and money) on paperwork and travelling and more time by their patients’ bedsides. It can also speed up processes such as inputting results and locating medication, improving the quality of care the NHS can offer and allowing staff to respond to patients’ needs more quickly.
The pilot study calculated that from 250 clinicians who submitted data, each of them saved an average of £462 over 8 weeks in saved referrals, admissions and visits. This equates to £3,002 per clinician per annum.
There are, of course, significant challenges for mobile in an organisation as large and complex as the NHS. The MHWP study found that connectivity was a common frustration among many of the participants in the project, due to the varying levels of WiFi coverage in different areas.
The main challenge, though, was security – specifically the security of confidential patient data. NHS organisations need tight control over who has access to the device, where it can be taken and how it can be used, which is where enterprise mobilility management comes in.
These were the challenges facing the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (RBCH) a few years ago, when we first started working with them to provide a management solution for their mobile devices. Facing pressure from employees and NHS initiatives on mobile working, the Trust wanted to offer employees greater access to emails, file sharing and applications from mobile devices while meeting information governance regulations. It also needed to deploy VitalPac, an application for patient observations, care management and escalation of treatment.
Since deploying MobileIron’s Enterprise Mobility Management (then known as a Mobile Device Management) solution, staff at the hospitals have been able to spend more time with patients and there has been a reduction in technical and support issues related to mobile devices. Patient care has improved with the introduction of VitalPac and the Trust is now exploring further application deployments to improve other areas of its care.
This is a good example of how, if implemented and managed in the right way with the right security, mobile technology can help NHS staff to make more efficient use of their time. There is clearly an appetite for more mobile working among staff, provided that they are supported and equipped with the right skills.
Since then, Bridgeway has continued to assist RBCH - and many other NHS organisations like it - to achieve success in their mobility projects. With the NHS under strain from a growing and ageing population, how NHS organisations approach mobile technology will be critical to their future.