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Community health teams can boost patient care efficiency using mobile IT according to new study

Frontline community health teams can double patient contact time by implementing job scheduling and adopting more efficient ways of capturing information according to a new study into the use of mobile computing technology in the NHS.
Published 08 July 2011

The research, undertaken jointly by the University of Reading, communications specialist Skillweb and Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, has found that current work practises contain an excessive administrative burden for clinicians and that paper-based scheduling of tasks provides no central visibility.

The research indentified a number of areas where mobile computing solutions can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of community healthcare workers including:

· Real time task update and event monitoring - average saving of 10 miles per day per clinician by not having to drive to the office to collect daily schedules.

· Electronic data capture - 60 per cent time saving that for one community team equated to a weekly saving of nine hours for the completion of assessment forms. The time could be used to see an additional 400 patients or save £7,020 per year.

· Standardise and pre-populate data collection forms - minimum of 30 per cent savings on current duration as well as reducing stress.

· Access to accurate data in the field - faster decision-making resulting in a minimum of a 15-minute saving per clinician per day.

· Route planning - saving a minimum of 30 minutes per clinician per day.

The study undertook a detailed analysis of current processes in the community mental health section of Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust. In particular, it focused on three teams: the Older Adults Community Mental Health Team (OACMHT), the Adult Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) and the Crisis Response/Home Treatment Team (CR/HTT).

Nigel Barton, Executive director of Operations at Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust commented: "The findings of the research demonstrate the value mobile computing technology can provide not only in terms of time and cost savings, but also reduced stress, better decision making and lone worker protection. Our aim is to make the most of our available resources to maintain high levels of patient care and this study demonstrates the role IT can play."

Paul Ridden, Managing Director of Skillweb said: "The research shows that electronic job scheduling and task management tools improve team visibility and efficiency as well as reducing administrative issues. The research identifies the complex and dynamic nature of mental health teams and has helped us in shaping our products to support the collaborative way in which clinical teams manage their appointments. By minimising manual data input and standardising collection forms, patient contact time can be significantly increased and reporting processes improved."

Prof. Kecheng Liu, Director of Informatics Research Centre, Henley Business School, praised the significance and timeliness of the work: "Effective management of information in health is essential for the improvement of quality of care. This project has demonstrated the great value of collaboration between academic and industry".

This feasibility study on the mobile computing solution in Community Mental Health also promotes a patient pathway research in the health care provision. This is the priority research theme jointly identified by the University of Reading and its industrial partner Skillweb. The results produced by this study will be the valuable input to further research in collaboration with other hospitals and care providers in the UK.


Notes to Editor - This work received financial support from the University of Reading's Knowledge Transfer Challenge Fund which was awarded by the EPSRC to enable universities to develop new ideas to increase knowledge transfer activity between academia and business, turning cutting edge research into social and economic gains.

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