Technology at the bedside: The benefits of mobile

Source: RTM Jan/Feb 17

Aaron Powell, chief digital officer at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), explains why the organisation sees mobile very much as the future.

At NHSBT mobile technology is making a major difference to the way we work – whether that is in the office, out on blood donor sessions, or at the bedside with patients. NHSBT is responsible for ensuring a safe supply of blood to hospitals in England and we are the organ donation organisation for the UK. Last year 3,519 organs from deceased donors were transplanted, but with 6,500 people on the transplant waiting list, it’s not enough – and, on average, three people die each day waiting for an organ. 

NHSBT’s specialist nurses in organ donation have a role unlike any other – highly rewarding and highly demanding. They are responsible for working alongside hospital critical care teams to identify potential organ donors; approaching families to discuss the possibility of organ donation; and collating all of the information about a donor’s past medical history and background in order to enable transplant clinicians to make a decision as to whether those organs are a good match for a patient on the waiting list. That’s a lot of data, about 75 pages of paper forms. 


The journey towards digitising those forms began in 2009, and some of the most critical forms were made available through a web-based system. Specialist nurses were provided with laptops to help them gather the information. The laptops did not prove popular. At the bedside, they were too big and unwieldy when trying to collate information from patient notes. The lack of connectivity in many hospitals also meant that the system couldn’t always be relied upon. In most cases, nurses resorted to pen and paper to collect the information and then transcribed it in to the electronic system. 

In mid-2015, NHSBT rolled out the new DonorPath application – an iPad app intended to collect the information specialist nurses need, following their natural workflow, and specially-designed to work both online and offline. The app digitised all 75 pages of forms and has transformed the way our specialist nurses work. They are now able to collate the medical history and details of the donor at the bedside, even when space is quite constrained. 

When speaking to families, the app is an enabler to the conversation, showing what information is needed and why and removing physical barriers. Importantly, the app isn’t reliant on wi-fi connectivity in hospitals – allowing nurses to collate the information they need where the information is, and then find connectivity only when it is necessary to sync the information to the central hub.

What does this mean for patients? It improves the experience for donor families at a very difficult time, and it means that the information needed to make safe transplant decisions is collected quickly and accurately first time.  

As well as providing mobile solutions to specialist nurses in hospitals, NHSBT has a comprehensive blood donor portal available for iPhone and Android devices, which allows donors to book appointments to give blood digitally. We have also provided a mobile recruitment tool to our donor marketing team when they are out and about recruiting new blood donors. 

We see mobile very much as the future. All of the new technologies we deploy are being designed to work as effectively on mobile devices as they do back at base. Sometimes, as with DonorPath, that involves careful design to manage connectivity challenges, but the benefits of being able to gather information in a less obtrusive way and to engage with patients and donors over the mobile device are worth it.

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