Take away lesson from NHS Innovation Expo: “Stop trying to make the wheel rounder”*

First up Digital Pen’s and me: I don’t use one. I know and have met with a lot of people that do but it’s not for me as I’m very comfortable using Nuance Speech Dragon (like now when I’m somewhere quiet), keyboards (when stood next to my desk) or finger tracing text entry (when out and about with a mobile/tablet).

All the same I don’t think we’re anywhere near to the day when we see the end of the mighty pen, it is after all what a lot of professional carers can and want to use even if digital migrants (youngsters who grew up with computers) fail to see it. I think the pen also presents a massive opportunity particularly when it seems like a day doesn’t go by when the mainstream press covers the negative impact of Healthcare IT eg. “Unglue nurses from their computer screens”.

But if you think the head nurse in a ward looking at her computer screen all day is bad imagine how futile the situation is for community health workers as they hunt for a private corner of a cafe to plug in their laptop or try and perch their hot and heavy laptop on a patients lap?

The combination of Digital Pen and Bletooth Smartphone has always struck me as the right technology for community carers as it makes for a simple and effective information capturing tool that comes without the need for drastic process change.

As such I’ve been following its use for more than 5 years now since I first saw HP showcasing the technology at the Son llatzer Hospital in Palma de Mallorca. Ever since I’ve been looking ‘behind the curtains’ in the hope that I’ll find a true success story and they’ve sadly been few and far between once you look into the details of printing costs and the lack of additional value additions. Thankfully the deployment by the midwives at Portsmouth’s Maternity Unit means my search is over and at the NHS Innovations Expo I got a chance to meet with the team at PaperIQ who delivered the solution.

The Portsmouth Maternity Unit has deployed a beautifully designed Digital Pen solution that combines mobile messaging (eg. to notify the carer of missing/incorrect data etc) and access to clinical data and resources that enable and help support the carer in their job. It’s no surprise that this success is leading to implementations across a number of other NHS organisations.

The important thing I find here is that the system builds on the value of the tried and tested paper process. All that the user needs to do is connect their pens to their smartphone, pick up a printed pad and they’re away. With minimal training (you use the digital pen exactly as you would a bic) the community based carers are now effectively and efficiently transmitting electronic data without any time delays straight into the care providers multiple electronic record systems.

PaperIQ have developed a dedicated page for the solution, neatly titled “Freeing Time To Care”, that gives an excellent explanation of the details of how this innovative care pathway saves time, travel and does away with the need for complex data administrative duties. But its essence is simple:

A community worker creates a handwritten physical copy in the patients home and this is instantaneously being converted to data for integration within the Hampshire Health Record Provided by Graphnet, Evolution Maternity system from iSoft and the teams own in-house reporting tool. Because this information is now passing seamlessly into the clinical systems where it is visible to other care professionals you now have a much more efficient and effective care pathway that will support the engagement of multiple clinical disciplines.

This Digital Pen program is the classic example of what I see with mHealth that makes it so much more effective than the incredibly expensive large scale Healthcare IT projects that all too often fail: this isn’t another case of unnecessary reinvention by a big vendor but the effective collaboration of different providers to improve upon an existing paper process.

* 13 April 2011: The title of this post originally read “healthcare IT providers need to collaborate not reinvent” but I just had to change it when Heidi Wilson, Senior Market Manager mHealth at Telus Health Solutions, commented on my twitter update with this much better use of language: “Stop trying to make the wheel rounder”.

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3 Responses to Take away lesson from NHS Innovation Expo: “Stop trying to make the wheel rounder”*

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