A handful of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are developing new technologies to help meet the changing demands of health care provision.
Take Forward, a secure instant messaging and workflow tool for medical professionals. Lydia Yarlott, a junior doctor, developed it with her partner and software engineer, Philip Mundy, and colleague, Barney Gilbert.
It was in response to a communication problem that she experienced first-hand. “I was astonished that we were relying on a system that entails calling an extension number to make someone’s pager buzz and then waiting by the phone until they call back,” she says.
WhatsApp is used as a workaround, but the sensitivities of clinical communication, such as sharing confidential patient information and complying with legal governance, required a bespoke solution, explains Ms Yarlott.
Forward connects to a hospital’s network, enabling anyone within the hospital to call and message others on the network based on their role, grade and availability. It can be integrated into other software that the hospital uses, and workflow functionality eliminates the chances of two doctors booking the same patient scan.
Karen Williams, a clinical scientist at NHS Medway says that
Forward has already helped to speed up processes:
“Previously, I had to answer constant calls on the landline and make handwritten notes, but now I can take requests for tests via the app and process them more quickly.”
Technology can also play an part in “signposting” patients to appropriate healthcare services and support, where early intervention is more likely to result in positive clinical outcomes, explains Paul Bryce, a chartered physiotherapist and partner at Edinburgh’s Midlothian Physiotherapy.
The practice uses JimJam’s video-chat technology, enabling physiotherapists to consult with patients at their convenience and without geographical limitations.
“Some of our working agreements are with large organisations that have workforces spread over a large area,” he says. “Agreed KPIs
always include consultations offered within a few working days and the software ensures that we can offer this early intervention to anyone, anywhere.”
Electronic notes are also more convenient and easier to store.
“They have the added protection of recording the consultations, which is helpful for audit and clinical governance purposes,” he says.
Dr Richard Bunn, a consultant psychiatrist who advised on the questionnaires used in maternal mental health app, Moment Health, adds: “When you present to services in a mental health crisis, any delay for assessment can result in symptoms becoming more severe.
“It makes a massive difference if patients can access support at the earliest stage.”
While there’s “no substitute” for face-to-face consultations with patients, Dr Bunn recommends a number of apps to patients to assist them in monitoring their mood and sleep. They email him regular tracking reports so that he can identify any important patterns between reviews.
It helps to manage working schedules
Florence is an app that uses technology to tackle the care sector’s nursing crisis.
Its founder, Charles Armitage, started the business in 2016; he was working as a doctor at the time and experienced “woeful inefficiencies” with the sector’s temporary staffing model.
Through Florence, healthcare managers can fill shift vacancies efficiently and nurses have greater control over their work.
An algorithm uses machine learning to make the best possible match between nurse and nursing home.
Using the app increases flexibility and transparency when filling a care home role, claims Justin Hutchens of the healthcare provider,
“Technology can be effective in freeing up colleagues to focus on care provision, while ensuring detailed record keeping,” he says. “It can
also help to explain the costs and complexity of services to local authorities, which helps with funding.”