Without doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified existing challenges facing hospitals and all workers have been affected.
Many of these existing issues had previously been addressed in a slow, ad hoc way. COVID has raised the profile of these information and communication issues not only among hospital management, but more importantly with frontline healthcare workers, including Doctors, Nurses, and Allied Health professionals. It has also led to a greater willingness to consider digital initiatives to support healthcare professionals become more efficient and effective in their work.
‘I’m an Emergency Department Physiotherapist, and MedApps has been a game changer for my entire team. I used to spend hours each day answering questions from junior staff, but now everyone has access to the critical info they need on the ground.’
The provision of timely, accurate information that is accessible to people who need it, when they need it, has remained one area where traditional solutions have been wanting. However, the push to find alternatives that work has endured, and as we’re finding at Med App, the persistence is paying off. Although our focus historically has been on medical staff, those same challenges are not isolated to Doctors in Training.
In this blog, we share what challenges and benefits were identified when improving the access to critical operational and clinical information for Physio’s and Speech Pathologists at a busy referral hospital in Victoria in 2020.
Allied Health clinicians and technology: the problem
Before the pilot started, the department relied on a series of manual and paper-based processes which were difficult to learn, subject to frequent change, and time consuming to access on the floor. Frequent rotations and changes between teams make it even more difficult to access information at the required time. A challenge similar to that experienced by the Doctors-in-Training group.
Over time, clinicians have been required to see more patients in less time. Coupled with complex operational processes, this has lead to an array of problems that were affecting the delivery of patient care.
Again, COVID-19 seemed to amplify these issues and a survey conducted by Allied Health Education corroborated this perception. It identified a need to access critical information that would enable allied health workers to safely and effectively perform their roles in a rapidly changing and dynamic environment. Specifically, the following concerns emerged:
- Clinicians could be ‘overloaded’ trying to retain information as it was not available ‘just in time’
- Clinicians often struggled to stay up to date with new organisational protocols, guidelines and process changes (for example, new COVID-19 guidelines)
- Increased cognitive load from trying to remember new departmental procedures had been shown to increase fatigue and clinical error
- Inefficient intranet and variable practice in data storage.
The Allied Health unit was able to incorporate Med App into it’s engagement strategy improving communication from leadership to frontline workers. The platform has proven very useful for rapid orientation, information sharing and education within hospital departments employing a large workforce, with positive feedback from staff at all levels.
‘MedApps has really increased our ability to recruit and support clinicians on the ground. I lead a team of advanced practice allied health staff, and we have always struggled to maintain a consistent service when long standing staff go on leave. MedApp has allowed us to build capacity and depth into the team. I recently covered clinics at one of our remote sites, which I would never previously felt comfortable doing’
Leading the Allied Health Pilot
The Director of Allied Health had the goal of improving engagement and experience for their workforce. The Med App pilot was set up with a focus on the Speech Pathology and Physiotherapy departments. The hypothesis was that with constant swapping between teams, departments and settings there would be some productive time improvements in having easy access to relevant clinical and operational information, particularly during COVID.
The schematic below provides a high level view of the information that was made available through the Allied Health pilot.
Outcomes from the Allied Health Pilot
Encouraging results included a high uptake of the platform, particularly from established team members and a productivity saving of 134 hours for the pilot period. This lead to an average saving of 4 minutes and 7 seconds for every minute spent using the platform.
Pilot participants were asked to complete a survey at the end of the pilot, revealing the following:
- 75 percent of respondents found the process of signing up to the app either very easy or easy
- Around 53 percent of respondents liked either the app’s functionality or content the most
- Most used features were the phone directory, clinical resources (guidelines) and clinical teaching resources, followed by pandemic response information, and hospital information
- Nearly 44 percent of respondents used the app every day, a few times a week, or once a week
The pilot also revealed opportunities for improvement in applying the platform to Allied Health workers, with the following among them:
- Increase alignment to existing structures and meetings that form part of clinical and operational governance
- Identify and allocate responsibility for maintaining content, particularly related to clinical teaching resources and local operational guides (e.g. patient transfers)
- Direct involvement of clinicians in determining content, balanced with organisational/executive requirements
- Assign permissions for different levels of administration to make uploading and distributing content streamlined.
All these areas for improvement are now being addressed in partnership with the MedApp team.
‘Training and credentialing of advanced practice allied health clinicians is now quick and easy. My time can be focused on clinical support and supervision, as all of the “how-to” info is on every staff members’ iphone.’
The takeaway for Allied Health
If you’re working in Allied Health in a hospital environment, it’s likely you’ve experienced similar challenges to those faced by the pilot participants. Unwieldy systems, constant rotations, out of date information, increasing workloads, and a workplace that is dealing with COVID-19 as best it can are hardly unique in 2020.
The good news is that digital technology can ease this burden by making the information that’s needed available to the people who need it, when they need it. And it can be easily achieved by syncing with the local systems of the individual units and the for the broader hospital.
Med App is an offline-accessible, mobile-first tool for easily accessing clinical and hospital guidelines, communicating with clinicians, and facilitating education and training. Already supporting over 20,000+ users worldwide, its usefulness to allied health workers is evident from trials like the one described in this article. For more information reach out by connecting with Tom Collins via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or uncover the possibilities when you book a complimentary Med App demonstration for your Allied Health team.