When managing community teams is it possible to increase the amount of patient facing time without reducing the quality of care.

Published on Friday, 18 February 2011 00:00
Posted by Amy Quayle

Recent research* into the productivity of community teams within the NHS has identified that in excess of 70% of a  health worker's day can be spent on travelling and administrative tasks.  With current government pressure to cut costs while delivering increased efficiency through technology, we set out to discuss the challenges that lay ahead in reducing the time spent on admin and travel in order to control departmental budgets whilst improving time available to care.


First, we need to look at the current management process - and initial findings show that these are predominately paper based, written by hand with some data being input centrally. Essential care forms, individual diaries, patient notes, addresses, phone numbers - all can be damaged, illegible to others reading the information or worse still lost at great cost to the department both in lost data and potential security risk.

So how can selecting the right technology help to overcome the challenges of meeting the stringent requirements for Information Governance set out by the health informatics directorate?  

In addition most working days start by visiting a base location in order to pick up daily duties.  Once they are out on the road - do you know where they are at any time? If we need a health worker to attend an urgent call, who could get there first?  Knowing the location of each health worker would indeed decrease the time taken to the patient, but also has another upside: less time travelling means less travelling costs and a reduced carbon footprint .  

But how can implementing a technology solution reduce the time spent on administrative tasks whilst maintaining quality of care?

Lets go back to the current issues.  The transition from paper based to electronic documents should not only be easier for the administrator but also to the health worker .  Forms can be ready populated with recurrent information such as contact details and sent securely back to the base office - a simple idea but can lead to 50% time reduction. Technology also benefits from the ability to be able to retrieve information in the event of a loss and even the ability to wipe the original date so that confidentiality breaches cannot occur. 

By utilising an integrated management system Mobile Team Managers should be able to assign tasks, track individual workers and create reports to demonstrate the new efficiencies.  In the commercial business world it has been proven that by planning diaries and travel in this way, time saved is as much as 1.5 hours per worker, per day - An obvious advantage to increasing the delivery of patient facing services.

The technology is ready, but is your department?  Can similar cost and time savings be made through alternate strategies?


* Source: University of Reading - Mobile Computing Solution in Community Mental Health - A Feasibility Study

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