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Clinicians at East Kent replace the pager with a mobile app for safer, faster care

25th February 2019

Clinicians at East Kent Hospitals are using a mobile app to make 2,000 patient referrals a month to their colleagues. They have replaced time-consuming phone conversations, pagers and bleeps with instant messages saved as part of the clinical record. 

The acute Trust originally introduced CareFlow Connect in its renal department, but has now rolled the mobile app out to numerous disciplines across the Trust. It is currently used to record some 4,000 electronic handover updates a week, and the figure is still growing rapidly every week.           

“Our use of CareFlow Connect used to be about alerting on acute kidney injury (AKI) but as it is used across so many departments it is now much more than that", said Dr Michael Bedford, a renal consultant at East Kent Hospitals and the Trust’s clinical IT lead.   “It is at the core of our clinical communication.”

East Kent is one of the largest hospital trusts in England, and has complex workflows spanning three large acute hospitals, two outpatient hospitals and community clinics.

The Trust has been using CareFlow Connect to give clinicians real-time information and alerts to their mobile devices about their patients, as well as to have medical discussions about their treatment. It has also now gone live with CareFlow Connect’s team-to-team referrals functionality.

“This ability to refer from one team to another has had such a profound impact on efficiency and patient care,” Dr Bedford explained.

“All clinical staff have traditionally had to rely on the telephone, and inevitably the pager, to have this sort of communication. This could take anything from a few minutes to several hours,” he said. 

“Now we can do it at the touch of a button, and the whole process is transparent. Everyone in the team can see the message, see when it has been actioned, and join any follow up conversations. It really is transformational.”

The Trust uses CareFlow Connect’s referral functionality between care hospitals and out in the community. Dr Bedford said the Trust’s nurses working in the community find it essential. “It means they can access details and talk to specialist consultants while they are with their patients.”

Dr Bedford and fellow East Kent renal consultant Chris Farmer originally worked in partnership with Dr Jon Shaw and Dr Jonathan Bloor, the founders of CareFlow Connect (now part of System C), to improve the care of their own kidney patients. 

They specifically wanted to use social media technologies, like those used in CareFlow, to identify and alert to patients developing AKI. Around 100,000 deaths a year in secondary care are associated with AKI, of which between one quarter and a third are preventable. Rapid diagnosis and treatment is essential. 

The introduction of CareFlow Acute Kidney Injury was associated with a 20% reduction in in-patients developing AKI stage 3 at East Kent Hospitals, according to Professor Chris Farmer. 

Medical professionals across numerous disciplines are now using the mobile app. 

Dr Jon Shaw, CareFlow Connect founder and clinical director of System C, said:  “It is fantastic to see CareFlow Connect making such a difference.

“We already know that social messaging-style technology adapts well to the dynamics and fluidity of care teams. What East Kent demonstrates is the huge value-added in an app which is designed specifically for clinical workflows and which integrates with the clinical record. The Trust has been an early pioneer of an approach which is now being adopted across the NHS."

The development of CareFlow Connect was part-funded by the SBRI Healthcare programme, an NHS England initiative which is designed to accelerate the development of new technologies that meet the needs of the NHS.