Comment: Patients, pillows and pounds

22-Aug-2013

Stuart Rankin of Cayder discusses why healthcare trusts are slow to adopt patient flow technology

In this article, STUART RANKIN, chief executive of Cayder, discusses why some healthcare providers are slow to adopt patient flow technology despite various efficiency-driven Government initiatives and continuing pressures on frontline staff to deliver improved, safer patient care

While technology is becoming increasingly adopted among healthcare professionals, there still remains a large proportion that are reluctant to move away from traditional tools such as clipboards and whiteboards

With the NHS in England needing to find between £15billion and £20billion in efficiency savings by 2014, and a potential shortfall of nearly 200,000 nurses, there is clearly a very immediate case for helping ward staff to work as productively as possible.

Technologies such as Patient Flow Management (PFM), can help reduce the level of administration and unnecessary interruptions for frontline staff, allowing them to concentrate on each patient’s needs. It focuses on the practicalities of admitting, discharging and transferring patients, as well as scheduling and tracking a wide range of planned activities including nursing procedures, such as catheter changes, therapy sessions, portering and cleaning.

Making IT work for frontline staff

I have a strong healthcare influence in my family; both my mother and grandmother were nurses. It was my mother who convinced me to try and find a way to make IT work better for frontline healthcare staff. After listening to their frustrations, I understand the need to give these workers the appropriate systems to enable them to put the patient first; and this is why I am passionate about reducing the amount of unnecessary administration for care teams.

Despite Government initiatives such as the Releasing Time to Care (RTTC) scheme, which focuses on the innovation of service provision driven by the frontline, there is still a slow uptake of efficiency-driven technology within the NHS.

Seeing is believing

> Care teams are under immense pressure and after spending time with them I am reminded of the difference that technology can make

A recent Royal College of Nursing report suggested that nurses were struggling to influence ICT developments. I have experienced first-hand how some nurses find it difficult to process how technology could support their day-to-day tasks until they see it for themselves – so I showed one group what PFM could do on a large touchscreen.

They watched as I easily navigated through a bed management module on the touchscreen, which provided real-time accurate information on bed statuses across the whole hospital. The nurses started chatting amongst themselves about how they would not need to phone around each ward for bed availability, and how they could easily request and allocate beds when admitting or transferring patients.

Minding the (technology) gap

While technology is becoming increasingly adopted among healthcare professionals, there still remains a large proportion that are reluctant to move away from traditional tools such as clipboards and whiteboards. The issue here is one of control and comfort; care teams are used to working with paper-based equipment.

You can also see time-consuming and technical software training as another barrier for frontline staff, which is why it is important that technologies such as PFM need to be easy-to-use, intuitive, with shallow interfaces to manage patient information using only a few touches or keystrokes.

More time for the frontline

Care teams are under immense pressure and after spending time with them I am reminded of the difference that technology can make.

When you consider that writing out a handover note will take around two or three minutes on a typical ward of 30 nurses, that is an hour saved every day. A 50-ward hospital would save 50 hours-per day, the equivalent of an extra nurse for a whole week. What a difference that could make across the whole NHS!

The time is now

PFM technology is able to not only help track patient’s location in an instant; it can make wards more productive and support the NHS to achieve national targets

One situation a frontline carer shared with me was that a hospital pastor was finding it difficult to locate patients who were on an end-of-life programme. These patients were missing out on an important service, and nurses were being interrupted from their medical duties to track them down.

PFM technology is able to not only help track patient’s location in an instant; it can make wards more productive and support the NHS to achieve national targets. The challenge is deploying the technology it desperately requires now, not in the future.

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