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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
Better Together

New ‘app’ creates more time to care for mental health patients

Published: 08/05/2018

Busy frontline nurses on mental health wards across Birmingham have helped to design, test and roll-out a new ‘app’ that has transformed the way clinical information is captured, leaving more time for nurses to care for their patients.

Developed by our Trust, the new mobile ‘app’ enables nursing staff to enter therapeutic observations on a hand-held mobile device, recording essential patient information in real time, replacing handwritten notes and signatures that require paper-based information to be manually added to a patient’s electronic record.

The new app is linked to the Trust’s main electronic clinical record system and has a status alert built in, which prompts time-sensitive observations on four different levels ranging from five minute to one hour intervals. The clinical team can alter these observational timings, at any point during a patient’s care, to support each individual care plan as needs fluctuate. This change has provided the whole care team, including doctors, clinicians, nurses and allied health professionals, with the ability to monitor both past and present observations so that informed decisions and changes to care can be made more efficiently.

Dr James Reed, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist and Chief Clinical Information Officer at our Trust, 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. So we have built our own, and the benefits so far have been incredible.”

The first phase of this new system is now complete and fully operational across 53 inpatient wards, capturing over 3.7 million electronic observations since the technology was introduced in December 2017.  

Dr Reed, adds: “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.

“Statistics show we are now electronically recording millions of observations across inpatient services at our Trust and there are several key areas of recording patient care that are still paper-based.”

The Trust is now entering the second phase of the programme to design, test and transfer physical observations on all inpatient wards to this new interoperable system, and they’re not stopping there. 

John Short, Chief Executive Officer for the Trust, said: “As one of the largest mental health trusts in the country, we are working towards a whole range of digital innovations that will help us to achieve increased safety for our patients, and efficiencies for our staff.

“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.

“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.” 

Digital Ward is part of the Trust’s Global Digital Exemplar programme, supported by NHS England and NHS Digital. Alex Chaplin, Director, GDE programme, NHS Digital, states: “This is another example of a GDE trust transforming healthcare delivery through digital and providing national leadership for others to follow.”