Implementation of a BlackBerry solution with Astute to enable GPs to access patient records on the move has helped one out of hours provider improve the quality of care delivered to patients and save £100,000 per year.

Northern Doctors Urgent Care (NDUC) is one of the UK’s largest out of hours service providers serving almost one million patients across Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Newcastle. It provides telephone support for patients, and operates seven urgent care centres and a home visiting service. NDUC’s team of 350 GPs and nurses and 13 vehicles respond to 180,000 phone calls a year, a quarter of which require a home visit.

The challenge

On 1 January 2005 stringent new quality standards were brought in for out of hours providers covering everything from record keeping and exchange of information to the patient experience.

Benefits of the Astute solution on BlackBerry

  • Mobile access to patient records.
  • A highly secure encrypted system.
  • Easy to use and simple and cost effective to deploy. Ability to make and submit consultation notes has saved each health professional
    one hour per day.
  • For details, click here

Ben Stobbs, IT and telecommunications manager at NDUC, says: “I knew we could meet them more cost effectively if we had a mobile solution that could give our doctors secure, instant access to patient records.”

NDUC used a paper system where GPs would consult clinical information before attending a home visit, so if they received a call while out they would be unable to access that patient’s records.

A mobile solution enables GPs to gain access a patients’ records without returning to a central base, meaning they would be seen sooner and the GP would be able to visit more within one shift.

A wide range of options were examined, but Mr Stobbs says: “Solutions that could provide live access were either too expensive, too complicated for the administrators or too cumbersome for users.”

The solution

In early 2008, NDUC was approached by Astute Mobile Data Solutions, a member of the BlackBerry® Alliance programme. In just 12 weeks Astute had developed an application that provides live and secure access to NDUC’s clinical records. The Astute solution was deployed on the BlackBerry® Enterprise Server for exchange with BlackBerry® Mobile Data System, providing NDUC with secure end-to-end email access to the Advanced Encryption Standard, a mobile server administration application, access to network files and folders and a voice guided Sat Nav package from Telmap™ Navigator.

When the NDUC call centre receives a call from a patient, the system sends a message containing the call reference number and GPS coordinates to the Sat Nav of the GP’s vehicle. The GP can access the patient records on a BlackBerry® smartphone and read them en-route. If the device goes out of coverage, the GP can still access the records as the BlackBerry application caches them temporarily. The application also allows the GP to make notes and submit them to the surgery. The notes are date stamped and follow up requirements flagged.

The benefits

NDUC estimated that other solutions would cost around £7,000 per vehicle, whereas the Astute solution cost a fraction of that. It also proved extremely easy to use, requiring only 10-15 minutes of training.

“We calculated that the BlackBerry solution would pay for itself if it saved doctors at least 10 minutes per shift,” says Mr Stobbs. “In an eight-hour shift, they were spending one hour doing paperwork. We’ve turned that administration time into patient time.”

A great range of apps to complement solutions

A wide range of apps have been developed especially for the BlackBerry platform to help the health sector work more efficiently and provide better quality care. These include apps that can help managers and health professionals with admin and communication, but most importantly apps designed to aid patient care by alerting health professionals when a patient needs attention or tracking lone workers in the community and enabling them to summon help discreetly if required.