Government funding in Scotland is driving an increased use of mobile technologies across the National Health Service (NHS), which is allowing staff to spend more time with their patients.
Health boards are using a £1 million fund to purchase a range of technologies for community-based staff, including digital pens, tablets and mobile devices.
This money was distributed at the end of 2012 following the use of digital pens at NHS Western Isles, where a recent evaluation highlighted that staff are spending 50 percent more time with patients.
“The ultimate aim of introducing technology such as digital pens is to improve how we care for patients, and the results of introducing the digital pens speak for themselves. Everyone involved in this project is to be commended, in particular the community nurses and IT staff,” said NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson.
“The community nursing teams have been positive from the outset about testing this new technology, and feedback from both the nurses and their patients has been extremely positive.”
He added: “The NHS Western Isles digital pen project has attracted a lot of attention nationally, and some other health boards have now taken our lead and have invested in the technology themselves.”
Health boards across Scotland are adopting a range of different approaches to rolling out mobile technology, some examples of which include:
• NHS Dumfries and Galloway has adopted similar technology to the Western Isles and is running a pilot with 47 community nursing staff and efficiencies are already being made
• NHS Borders are also planning to introduce digital pens to community nurses. Mobile devices will be deployed to around 20 nurses in the community by the end of March 2014, with a subsequent rollout to up to 90 staff
• A community nursing team in East Dumbartonshire has been using iPads to record information. As well as freeing up time to spend with patients, up to 10 hours a day across the team, it also increases patient safety through not having to transcribe information two or three times
• Some members of the rehabilitation team in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are using ipads in patients’ homes to order equipment and other tasks. The patient can see online what is being ordered for them and when it will arrive. The equipment arrives quicker as the team do not have to go back to the office to order and this helps the patient in the process of rehabilitation in their home. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is also in the process of implementing a further 20-30 iPads to support Rehab services
• NHS Lothian has purchased 550 mobile devices, and NHS Ayrshire and Arran has purchased about 100 iPads for use
• NHS Shetland has procured and deployed a mix of iPad and Android tablets to 120 community based staff
• NHS Tayside has deployed mobile devices to over 100 Community Nurses to allow them to get familiar with using the devices. They are currently using for email and calendar while work to deliver mobile MiDIS (community information system used by several Boards) is being completed
• NHS Highland is planning to use digital pens to capture data for the Keep Well anticipatory care programme
• NHS Fife has over 20 devices piloting in the community, with a further 50 ready for deployment.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “Technology is invaluable for staff who work in community settings, and I set up this fund to enable these staff to choose what device works best for them.
“Traditionally community nurses had to wait until they returned to the hospital to update patient records but now they can be updated automatically.”
He added: “I am pleased to see so many examples of digital technology benefitting patients across Scotland and freeing up time for staff to spend with patients.”