London North West University Hospital Trust’s emergency department, winner of the Driving Efficiency Through Technology category at the 2019 HSJ Awards, replaced a paper-based system with an ePortering solution. Jennifer Trueland reports how the move streamlined operations

Nurse patient wheelchair (1)

An electronic system to manage emergency department requests for portering has reduced cancellations by 80 per cent, as well as saving six minutes on each request – equivalent to 10,000 hours per year.

London North West University Hospital Trust’s ED moved from a paper-based system to Infinity Health’s ePortering solution, transforming the experience of staff and patients and improving efficiency.

Now it has taken the top accolade in the Driving Efficiency Through Technology category of the HSJ awards.

According to Jo Garland, clinical director with Infinity Health, the use of the right technology brings multiple benefits.

“I’m a GP by background, I’m a clinician, and I think that generally healthcare professionals don’t have the right tools to do their jobs. This impacts on efficiency and safety and staff satisfaction, which is a really important factor as there’s a problem with staff retention in the NHS, so we need to invest in really good tools for healthcare professionals.

“The other thing about technology is that it brings people together – a lot of healthcare professionals work in their different groups, but where technology is amazing is that it brings people together on one platform, because we should all be working as one team.”

Need for improvement

The trust’s emergency department co-ordinates more than 100,000 requests for porters per year. Before the new system was introduced in 2018, staff had to go to a fixed place to handwrite a request with the location of collection and destination, but this did not have any additional information about the patient, nor was there any direct communication with portering staff.

Staff experience has been transformed – clinicians are spending less time chasing portering requests, and porters are spending less time trying to find the right patient, and returning to base between jobs

This meant that porters would sometimes turn up to the given location to find that the patient had been moved – and there were no clues about who or where they might be, because there was no patient-specific information. There was also no information, such as whether a chair or trolley would be required. The whole process was frustrating and time-consuming and involved some 39 per cent of requests being cancelled.

The trust recognised there was a need to improve communications, reduce cancellations, reduce the time taken for each request, and to improve satisfaction.

Optimising efficiency

With the Infinity ePortering solution, staff can request a collection or patient transfer using secure mobile devices and porters can accept and share their activity in real time – giving everyone a view of what is happening on the ground. It also allows activity to be monitored and audited, giving information crucial to optimising efficiency.

Under the new system, porters do not have to return to that one location to pick up written information for each job, and they are now armed with much better and more detailed facts to make their job easier, such as the patient’s name, who requested the transfer, and any additional needs. Clinicians and porters alike report that they feel as though they are working together as a team in a more streamlined and co-ordinated way, and the new system also means that urgent cases can be prioritised.

Staff experience has been transformed – clinicians are spending less time chasing portering requests, and porters are spending less time trying to find the right patient, and returning to base between jobs.

“It’s about sharing the right information with the right people at the right time,” says Dr Garland. “That’s really important. And winning the HSJ award was a real highlight for us – it was really exciting, and it was a validation of what we were doing, which was working really hard to give healthcare professionals more time to care. It’s freeing up time making it more efficient and safer for staff and patients, and improving staff satisfaction.

“But it also recognises the work that the clinical and operational teams were doing in the emergency department implementing the project. Digital transformation is not easy, and that recognition [from the award] was wonderful.”

The Infinity solution is now being used by more than 500 staff in the ED and work is underway to roll it out to other areas of the trust. The company is also working with the trust’s rapid response team to make the most of technology to optimise a system to allow patients to be treated at home instead of being admitted to hospital, or allowing them to get home more quickly if they do have to be admitted.

Click here to find out more about how to enter the HSJ Awards 2020.