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Can the NHS afford not to adopt mobile working?

Mobile technologies are revolutionising the way people work, and healthcare is no exception. Whilst a number of NHS Trusts are already reaping the benefits of mobile working and the business case is well proven, the majority of the NHS is still in the “information dark ages”. With £20bn savings needed and the demographic time bomb ticking, how can the NHS afford not to adopt mobile working?

Mobile technologies are revolutionising the way the world works, empowering organisations in both private and public sectors to unlock their potential. Organisations quote multimillion pound savings in productivity and real estate costs as a result of adopting mobile working practices, not to mention the improvements in the work-life balance of staff.

Business cases around cost reduction and greater productivity have underpinned the reasons for investments in new technologies and business processes to enable mobile working. This will continue to be the case, as it has been proven on paper and in reality that moving from paper-based processes and an inflexible office based working structure to a more flexible way of working pays off. Mobile working should now be considered as a central element in the discussion around modern working practises.

More time to care

Many healthcare organisations are already part of this revolution and are starting to reap the benefits of mobile working. For example, in the context of community care this can mean real time access to vital patient information at the point of care using mobile technologies, enabling the clinicians to make more informed decisions, deliver more patient visits, and spend more time with patients at a time. Evidence from mobile working pilots shows that NHS trusts could free up over an hour per day for each member of staff by using mobile technologies, resulting in considerable efficiency and productivity benefits.

Whilst mobile working practises and technologies are recognised as the key enabler for quality of care and efficiency gains, the reality still is that the majority of NHS Trusts have not yet adopted these new ways of working. In the example context of community care, research shows* that six in ten community care workers are still working without any wireless IT systems, relying on paper files and spending unnecessary time travelling back to the base to record notes, often waiting for their turn to access a shared computer. It is no wonder that the NHS is widely considered to be stuck in the ‘information dark ages’, with patients and clinicians alike frustrated with its inflexibility and archaic working practices in an age of connectivity and real time access to information online.

The deployment of, mobile technologies and working practices is by no means a done deal with a guaranteed return on investment, as there are still significant challenges that organisations need to overcome. Only a few of the organisations adopting mobile working programmes seem to have succeeded in fully realising the benefits of mobile working or proceeding to a wider rollout*. Interestingly, the key reasons behind this are not necessarily the technological barriers, but more often to do with challenges around cultural change management and lack of clinical leadership. Indeed, with the consumerisation of IT, most workers have become familiar with mobile devices in their personal lives and are increasingly comfortable with the use of mobile technologies also supporting their working practices.

People and processes are key to successful adoption

Back office system interoperability and integration do present technical challenges to the deployment of mobile working, but these are usually not insuperable. It must be remembered that technology should always be seen as an enabler only, not the entire solution. People and processes are key, as the technology deployed must always reflect the organisation’s systems, and getting the staff buy-in is arguably the single most important hurdle to cross. Clinicians are not resistant to change and innovation by nature, but will adopt and embrace new ways of working if supported and engaged adequately by the management all the way through the process.

By keeping it simple, getting the clinicians involved from the start and planning for a controlled change, NHS trusts can successfully adopt and reap the benefits of mobile working practices and technologies. With its full potential realised, mobile working will give healthcare professionals the time and tools they need to care for patients, helping to drive the information revolution across the whole of the NHS.

With advanced mobile devices now readily available, robust data networks in place, and line of business applications rapidly developing, the time is right for the NHS to start embracing mobile technologies. Most importantly, with mobile working established as an essential part of modern life and the business case well proven – especially against the backdrop of QIPP and the efficiency savings required across the board – how can the NHS afford not to adopt mobile working?

How Orange can help

Orange has been working closely with a number of NHS trusts to understand their needs and deliver simple but effective solutions that help them work smarter, redesign services and reduce costs. Our portfolio of mobile working solutions are designed to give clinicians more time to care. We can help the NHS become more productive and efficient while saving time and cutting costs – now and in the future. If you’d like to know more about how Orange is working with the NHS to deliver strategic change along with immediate efficiencies, call 0800 037 2737, or visit www.orange.co.uk/health

Reference

Crump, H (Aug 2009). Variation show NHS community services ripe for efficiencies. Retrieved from www.hsj.co.uk

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