Sharing digital blueprints across the NHS to improve services for patients and staff

Dr James Reed is the Chief Clinical Information Officer for Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) and a Fellow of the Faculty. In this blog, James talks about how both patients and staff across BSMHFT are benefitting from apps to record physical and therapeutic observations at the point of care, and why the Global Digital Exemplar blueprinting platform should be the first point of call for NHS organisations introducing digital technology.

For me, learning and sharing our experiences of deploying digital technology through the creation of blueprints is one of the most important components of being part of the Global Digital Exemplar Programme.

These blueprints detail the important components needed for sustainable digital transformation such as: organisational leadership and culture; clinical and staff engagement as well as the people and processes required to successfully delivering the benefits of technology.

Our team at BSMHFT have recently published blueprints of our physical and therapeutic observation apps and the great thing about this (and all of the GDE blueprints that are now available) is that NHS organisations can use them as a step-by-step guide or tailor them to meet local requirements.

Throughout the creation and deployment of the apps we followed a few core principles:

We asked clinical staff what would make their jobs easier

We wanted to introduce something technological that would improve the work of the inpatient staff and asked them to identify what they had the most trouble with and the unanimous response was “observations”.  Every patient on every ward is observed at regular intervals and staff were spending a long time filling in forms, which was;  time-consuming, difficult to manage with different patients on different observation intervals, hard to keep track of, and was generating vast amounts of paper and waste.

We then involved the developers

Rather than asking the clinical teams to come up with a solution, we gave the problem to the developers. If we had asked the clinical staff to come up with the solution they would probably have come up with a digital version of the chart but the developers looked at the problem in an innovative way and came back with something I don’t think any of us would have thought of.

We got the teams working together and respecting each other’s areas of expertise

The nursing staff and the developers worked together in quite an agile way and drew on their respective areas of expertise. The nurses felt really engaged as they could see their feedback being incorporated into the technical solution the developers were creating.

By combining all of these elements we ended up with a product that has made the job of the clinical staff much easier and on top of that it has delivered real benefits for patients, who are ultimately at the heart of what we are trying to do.

All the information that the staff need to complete the observations, including care plans and patient photograph, is provided on the screen. Staff are shown which patients need to be observed and when, which helps them to organise their work and ensure observations are completed on time.

I’ve also seen a real cultural change starting to happen across the organisation with frontline staff interested and excited about technology – which is reflected in the short film below.

I think the most exciting part is that this is just one example of 60 blueprints that are now available for you or your colleagues to use. They cover a range of technical capabilities that have; helped save lives, reduced medication errors, enabled patients to access psychological therapies through their smartphones, given patients the ability to manage their appointments online, helped staff work remotely by giving them secure access to electronic patient records from anywhere – just to name a few.

So, I would encourage all members of the Faculty and your IT teams and frontline staff to think of the blueprinting platform as the first place to go to before starting the deployment of any digital technology.

You can request access by emailing england.gdeblueprints@nhs.net.