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District nurse patient contact boosted by 50% due to mobile tech

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District nurses in North Manchester have increased their patient contacts by 50%, following the introduction of mobile devices to record and share clinical information.

A total of 350 members of staff within the region’s community service, run by Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, have been using iPads as part of home visits to patients since February 2017.

“There is no need for the nurses to physically come into the office before they start their first visit”

Melanie Ince

All 120 district nurses within the service, as well as specialist nurses, Macmillan nurses, physiotherapists, podiatrists, and IV therapy staff, have been given the tablets, which make use of an electronic patient record system and app provided by EMIS Health.

As a result, the number of patient contacts by district nurses has risen by around half due to staff spending less time returning to the office to access and input patient information, according to those leading the introduction of the technology at the trust.

Among all community staff, the number of patient contacts – either face-to-face or on the phone – in a month has risen by around 70% in the space of 12 months, from 16,098 in January 2017, to 27,339 in January 2018.

The increase is thought to be partly due to staff being able to improve the quality of the data they are recording – but nurses say it is mostly down to more of their time being freed up.

According to the trust, district nurses are saving on average more than an hour every day.

“Under the new systems the nursing team leader schedules the patient visits for all of their staff for the next day, so there is no need for the nurses to physically come into the office before they start their first visit,” said Melanie Ince, community IT systems manager at the trust.

“We wanted to introduce the system because it is a safer way of working”

Melanie Ince

However, she said the main reason for bringing in the system was to improve patient safety.

“We wanted to introduce the system because it is a safer way of working. By using the technology, the patient’s records are more accurate and up-to-date,” she told Nursing Times.

“If you’re a clinician and calling at a patient’s home in the afternoon, you can see exactly what has happened right up until the point you got there. So if another healthcare professional has called earlier on in the day, you can see the details,” she added, noting the system also eliminated past problems of paper patient records going missing.

A recent report by the Queen’s Nursing Institute concluded that many community nurses continued to rely on paper records due to problems such as internet connectivity in patient homes, which stopped them from using technology.

But Vikki Stradling, a district nurse and EMIS project facilitator at Pennine Acute Hospitals, said this was not an issue within her team because the data stored on the app was available offline as well.

She acknowledged the biggest challenge of introducing the mobile system was that “nurses in general are attached to paper”. But she said that once they had been supported to use the technology, “the feedback is they’d never go back” to paper.

In the future, the team hopes to develop the system further by making more use of photos of wounds taken via the iPads, and ensuring GPs are sharing their data with the community team.

By the end of the year, it is also hoped the trust’s community services covering Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale will also be using the EMIS Health mobile system.

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