Mental health nurses at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust have helped design a new app to record clinical data, which means they can spend more time caring for patients.
The Digital Ward app enables staff to enter real-time therapeutic observations on a hand-held mobile device, replacing handwritten notes that needed to be manually added to a patient’s electronic record.
“We have built our own solution, and the benefits so far have been incredible”
Those behind the development say it not only saves nurses huge amounts of time, but also supports nurses and other clinicians to make the best decisions about a patient’s treatment.
The app is linked to the trust’s main electronic clinical record system and can provide automatic alerts to remind nurses to do observations at certain times.
It also allows the whole care team – including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals – to swiftly review patient data and make timely decisions about their care.
Trust staff had scoured the market for a practical solution for reducing paperwork but did not find they were looking for, so decided to design their own, said consultant forensic psychiatrist and chief clinical information officer Dr James Reed.
“The creation of our bespoke app for mental health care professionals is a real breakthrough”
He said: “Inpatient treatment cannot be effective if mental health professionals are tied-up with a cumbersome paper processes that are not effective and do not provide real time information that is vital in the effective planning of patient treatment and care.
“After identifying a process that would solve this problem, we set out to find an ‘off the shelf’ solution to this paper-based dilemma but unfortunately, none were readily available,” he said. “So we have built our own, and the benefits so far have been incredible.”
Nurses have been involved in designing, testing and rolling out the technology across the trust.
The first phase of the project is now complete and up and running across 53 inpatient wards. Since it was introduced in December 2017 the new system has captured more than 3.7 million electronic observations.
Dr Reed said electronic recording had helped improve consistency and had been welcomed by both staff and patients.
New app helping mental health nurses to record clinical data
“The electronic recording of observations has allowed staff to carry out essential clinical recording in a consistent and timely manner, providing additional reassurance to both staff and patients,” he said.
The next stage will be to ensure physical observations on all inpatient wards can be recorded using the new system.
Trust chief executive John Short described the app as a “real breakthrough” that was among a number of digital innovations the organisation was working on in order to boost efficiency and patient safety.
He went on to praise staff for embracing the new technology and the drive to create “digital wards”.
“The creation of our bespoke app for mental health care professionals is a real breakthrough, and the acceptance of this new digital technology among nursing staff and patients across all wards has been brilliant,” he said.
“With the digital therapeutic observations aspect of patient care now complete, we are working to develop this new technology further to help us work towards a truly ‘digital ward’ so that all of our inpatient areas are paperless making care safer, and more efficient freeing up valuable time for our nursing staff, and other mental health professionals, to spend time caring for our patients.”
This work is part of the Global Digital Exemplar programme to create more “paper-free” trusts, supported by NHS England and NHS Digital.
New app helps mental health nurses to record clinical data