Mobile technology improves community care in Scotland

Published on Monday, 27 January 2014 11:02
Written by Daniel Mason

Patients across Scotland are benefiting from more time with nurses and doctors thanks to use of the latest mobile technologies in the NHS across Scotland.

Health boards have used a £1m Scottish government fund to purchase a range of different technologies for community-based staff, including digital pens, tablets, ipads and mobile devices.

The money, which was provided to health boards at the end of 2012, was distributed following the success of the use of digital pen technology by NHS Western Isles.

Recent evaluation has shown that the use of digital pen technology has enabled NHS community staff in the Western Isles to spend 50 per cent more time with patients.

The fund was designed to ensure staff working in community settings could access important information about their patients or to update patients' records electronically, reducing the time spent on administration.

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.

"Health boards have invested in range of different technologies to ensure community staff have instant access to the information they need, and the results from the Western Isles show that this approach is helping to make real improvements in patient care and, vitally, allowing nurses to spend more time with their patients.

"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."

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson said: "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. 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.

"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.

"This is a perfect example of a patient-centred development, which has released time to care for the nurses and has meant that clinicians can share important patient information instantly and securely, which also benefits the patient."

Health boards across Scotland are adopting a range of different approaches to rolling out mobile technology.

These 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.

Source: Scottish government

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