It’s a challenging time for the NHS but one that presents many opportunities to review and improve the ways we deliver healthcare.

The appetite for change is ever increasing, with information and digital technology to play a pivotal role in achieving the reforms. There’s a compelling need to learn from other sectors and from each other, selecting the most successful innovations to transform and drive our organisations and our services forward.

Embedding mobile technology in working practices features strongly in the Department of Health’s information strategy, enabling clinicians to access patient records and other online resources at the point of care and on the move. The use of mobile technology in community services has been widely publicised as a key enabler of faster, better quality, more efficient healthcare.

However in recent years take up has been slow with opportunities being missed in realising the full benefits potential of mobile working practices. Much of this can be attributed not only to technological challenges, but the need for tighter alignment to business strategy and the necessary emphasis on business change management.

To help organisations navigate the challenges of implementing “connected” mobile working practices, the Department of Health Informatics Directorate has developed an online resource. Primarily targeted at community services organisations, the NHS Mobile Working Knowledge Centre shares good practice guidance, tools and case study evidence of the benefits and effective implementation of mobile working in healthcare.

The website can save NHS organisations significant time and money when developing and delivering their mobile working programmes. It not only helps organisations understand and develop their own case for investment but also suggests structured approaches to avoiding common pitfalls in planning and implementation.

Why mobile working?

The quality, innovation productivity & prevention (QIPP) agenda is challenging organisations to reconsider how they’ve traditionally delivered services to find more productive and efficient operating models. Mobile working provides an opportunity to modernise, develop more streamlined service models and make better use of valuable resources such as staff and office space. Mobile technologies, if implemented effectively, can underpin a completely transformed way of working (see figure 1).

The key to maximising the value of mobile working to the business is to ensure programmes are fully aligned with active and progressive workforce, estate and service strategies. Figure 2 presents a conceptual model for a typical organisation’s journey to exploiting the benefits of mobile working practices.

  • Introducing mobility to existing services delivers immediate benefits for patients and the organisation through leaner more efficient processes. In addition clinicians can benefit from improved job satisfaction and the flexibility to work from home and on the move.
  • Transforming processes to enable a more responsive, flexible style of working and offers significant potential for productivity savings at scale. Staff workloads can be managed centrally in real time and flexible working patterns can extend services’ hours. Real time access to clinical advice and test results offers the opportunity to extend services and levels of care. 
  • Releasing capacity is the opportunity to realise significant efficiency savings by rationalising office space. In addition, new service models can move the management and delivery of care from functional silos to multi professional and multi-agency teams.

Many NHS organisations are currently in the early stages of introducing mobility with plenty of scope for extending the benefits through additional transformation activity.

It’s critical that implementation follows a benefits-led approach delivered through a fully engaged business change programme rather than an IT driven implementation. Although IT is the key enabler, benefits can only be realised through the effective management of people, processes, and the organisational implications. Figure 3 presents a holistic view of the key considerations for developing a robust mobile working programme.

NHS organisations are at varying stages when it comes to implementing mobile working. Some haven’t considered it; some are attempting to justify the investment; others are at different phases of implementation. The NHS Mobile Working Knowledge Centre provides support across all of these equally critical stages.

Jim Monk is a business consultant at the Department of Health Informatics Directorate

Find out more

All figures can be found under the ‘Files’ section of this article, as a downloadabe Word document.