A smart collaboration between Royal Surrey clinicians and IT experts has won a prestigious Building Better Healthcare Award for the best Covid-19 technology solution after virtual ward rounds were set up to protect patients and staff in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and virtual visiting was introduced on the wards.
Celebrating outstanding achievements and innovation in healthcare, this award highlights the Trust’s rapid response to the challenges of the pandemic as it found ways to reduce risks for patients and staff, maximise precious stocks of PPE, save clinicians’ time and keep patients in touch with loved ones.
The solution was to bring in smartphones with two-way video consultation software that allowed just one ICU doctor to examine a patient, then link to colleagues who were sat remotely for the ward round. The phones were also rolled out across the Trust’s 14 wards and at Milford and Haslemere Community Hospitals, allowing relatives and friends to book virtual visits with loved ones while Covid-19 visiting restrictions were in place.
Consultant Intensivist and Anaesthetist, Justin Kirk-Bayley, said: “During the pandemic it was impractical to have the usual four or five doctors on a ward round. Using the remote ward round technology was safer and meant that one doctor went into the quarantined sector of ICU and coordinated the ward round via video on the smartphone. This was projected onto a meeting room screen so the rest of the team could be involved. The video conferencing software is very reliable, simple to use and you just set and forget.
“The remote ward rounds were slicker, more efficient, and safer and the technology allowed us to recoup some of the time that was lost to Covid-19.”
Although IT staff were already looking into smartphone technology for virtual consultations before the pandemic, the Covid-19 outbreak accelerated the process.
Andy Dargue, IT Infrastructure Project Manager, said: “The single sign-on technology from Imprivata and Attend Anywhere video conferencing was being successfully used in our outpatient clinics but, in response to the requirement from ICU, we brought in the Ascom smartphones to allow us to make use of the system in ICU.
“We had the smartphones on site and tested in just two weeks. It was an incredible team effort between the Trust and the three companies involved.”
The smartphones also proved invaluable in keeping patients in touch with friends and family while visiting was suspended.
Clinical nurse specialist Claire Richardson said: “A member of staff could take the smartphone to the patient and, thanks to single sign-on, with one tap they could quickly set up the virtual visit for a patient. After the visit, the phones could be thoroughly cleaned to meet our infection control requirements. The Attend Anywhere technology is ideal because it doesn’t retain patient-identifiable information, so patients leave no digital footprint.
“Virtual visiting made a tremendous difference to our patients and relatives at a very difficult and distressing time and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Some visits were incredibly emotional. The system has been particularly beneficial for our elderly patients who don’t tend to have their own mobile phones. I’m sure it’s helped many patients on their recovery journey.”
Mahesh Patel, Chief Information Officer, said: “This is the second time we’ve won an award for this solution and it’s a great achievement for the Trust. It shows that even when we’re under pressure, we’re able to react quickly and be agile and innovative to improve patient and staff safety.
“What’s absolutely key to the success of a project such as this is making sure clinical staff are involved right from the beginning, so that they’re fully engaged in the process and can shape what it looks like. I’m extremely proud of what the teams have achieved.”
The judges praised the project, commenting: “This is a fantastic partnership between technology suppliers, which has mitigated some of the risks associated with Covid-19 as well as ensuring loved ones could stay in contact with patients on the wards.”