Managing digital transformation in community care

A doctor using Surface Go in office inking with Surface Pen on screen as a patient looks on.Nestling in the shadow of the Black Mountains to the west, Herefordshire straddles much of England’s border with Wales. Wye Valley NHS Trust is a provider of acute and community services in this very rural area of the country.

Like many Trusts up and down the country, it has faced significant resource challenges, with ever-increasing demand on services and limited budgets.

But when it comes to organisational investment, the Trust’s community care services have become a key beneficiary.

The community team have long been stretched. Parts of the patient’s record were recorded manually, via spreadsheets. So the Trust decided to overhaul its legacy system – paper files and all. A new Electronic Patient Record System was put in for patients in the community via the EMIS Web platform system. This platform provides fast and secure online access to patient data while helping to integrate primary, community, and hospital care services.

Finding the right device to support mobile care

Man and woman collaborating while working on Black Surface Pro 6 inside officeThe next challenge was to equip community nurses with the right device. One that would enable flexible, mobile, and patient-centric working, while letting caregivers make the most of EMIS Web’s joined-up tools.

To inform its selection, the Trust engaged in a formal evaluation process.

First, mobile teams would need a practical device that was light, portable and extremely easy to use on the go. This meant laptops were largely disqualified. The right device must be discreet, and not intrude on the nurse-patient relationship. And for long, hard shifts an all-day battery life was a must.

The Trust also needed a single device system, which could be used across all applications to ensure resources are used to their full potential. And the IT team needed a secure device that could be managed remotely with ease – ideally, even configurable and wipeable remotely.

Another key requirement was ensuring access to the full range of tools. This disqualified a well-known competitor device because, although it would support EMIS Mobile – which provides a diary view for the next two days – it failed to support all Trust applications under their distinctive operating system platform.

In principle, Microsoft Surface Pro satisfied all of the community care team’s key requirements, including portability, usability, and compatibility with the full EMIS Web system.

But would it measure up in the field? To trial Surface Pro, selected users were given devices and asked to complete questionnaires. These included questions about weight, portability, screen display, usability, and battery life.

Team responses were evaluated and, with Surface Pro proving the best tool for the job, the Trust deployed 400+ devices to its community care workers.

Improving productivity

The community care team – newly empowered to provide higher-quality patient care with greater efficiency – has contributed to this positive story. And Surface Pro has played its part in helping them improve processes, productivity and care.

For example, staff now have rapid, secure access to all the patient records and team details they need, from appointments to shift rotas. Remote collaboration is easy. And, with real-time note-taking removing the need to write up notes at close of day, each nurse saves on time which can now be spent seeing patients.

Managing change: care teams and new tech

  1. Check devices vs. systems. Make sure tech devices work across all the systems you’ll need and that the right software versions are in place.
  2. Carry out a formal evaluation. Design and implement a phased evaluation process, and be sure to involve your staff in it. There’s no substitute for trailing candidate devices in the field.
  3. Don’t stop training prematurely. Deploying tech is always a milestone, but ongoing training and support are equally important. Don’t underestimate the team’s training needs as Surface Pro becomes integrated into their daily work.
  4. Keep it under review. What works for one team member may not work for another, so keep talking about new tech in relation to performance and process. Constantly evaluate success and be ready to manage practical adjustments for care teams.

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About the author

Photo of Danish Jafri, a smiling man with dark hair in a patterned shirt standing in front of fairy lightsDanish Jafri is the Community ICT Programme Manager and is responsible for deployment of Electronic Patient Records in the Community Services at Wye Valley Trust. With an MSc in Forensic Computing, he is a dynamic, commercially aware and highly skilled programme manager. He has a strong track-record in implementing large-scale IT infrastructure projects and systems of engagement that transform operational performance. He leads large teams of up to 100 and whole organisations through major systems implementation and organisational change projects whilst ensuring service, process, and operational improvement.