West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust commissioned Medic Bleep to pilot the app as a replacement to the non-cardiac pager, to improve patient safety and release time to care for patients.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is one of the UK’s leading foundation trusts with 430 beds. It has been selected by NHS England as a Global Digital Exemplar for delivering exceptional care, efficiently, through the use of world-class digital technology and information.

The trust relies on a pager system; while ‘bleeps’ have the advantage of not relying on wi-fi or cellular signal, the communication method is one-way, the recipient is unaware who is bleeping, why, or the level of urgency. Work is interrupted, time is wasted, prioritisation is difficult, and the evidence trail is limited.

The trust managers were also aware that some NHS colleagues use apps like WhatsApp to share work information, which don’t meet NHS information governance requirements and aren’t safe to be used for patient care. The trust was keen to explore if there was a different option that can help make working life easier for their staff, and ultimately save time and improve quality for their patients.

The pilot was conducted on the Trauma and Orthopaedic ward and Maternity ward in collaboration with community midwives. The trust was keen to improve the efficiency of communication within and between teams in the hospital, as well as with primary and community care partners in west Suffolk.

Medic Bleep split the pilot into four main stages:

  • The first stage incorporated 24 interviews across nominated wards & IT team to identify what is currently working well and what could be improved in their communication workflows. Key communication workflow processes were mapped with team leads to identify current communication bottlenecks and how to use Medic Bleep for these bottlenecks effectively.
  • The second stage included technical preparation and integration of Medic Bleep app with the technical team to ensure the wifi capabilities in the nominated wards were optimised, staff had wifi access on their devices. It was essential that charging stations were in place; trust devices were allocated to staff and the Medic Bleep application worked on the hospital’s desktops and wifi.

This stage also covered patient preparation to ensure that Medic Bleep worked with the communications team to interview patients on the respective wards to ensure their perspectives and needs were taken into account for the pilot. As a result, patient awareness flyers were created and distributed in the nominated wards and staff were given specific patient etiquette training for the pilot. Tailoring training for on-boarded staff members with different roles and responsibilities and working with the communications team to create a bespoke User Guidance, Frequently Asked Questions and Standard Operating Procedure document for staff played a key role.

To ascertain the impact of Medic Bleep, two days of Nurse and Junior Doctor Pre-Pilot Time Motion Studies were carried out and Pre-Pilot Qualitative Questionnaires were completed.

  • The third phase was focused on the go-live implementation. Each clinical area had a week to adjust their communication workflows to Medic Bleep and a week to use it Medic Bleep solely for their communications. Medic Bleep supported staff in each ward on a daily basis and co-ran regular team debrief meetings to feedback turn-on progress and early benefits. Two days of Nurse and Junior Doctor Pilot Time Motion Studies.
  • And finally, the post go-live stage included a broadcast message was sent to all pilot participant’s devices via Medic Bleep or SMS to communicate the end of the pilot. Medic Bleep supported the transition back to the current communication system with Post-Pilot Qualitative Questionnaires completed to collect feedback.

The time motion study showed a statistical significance between Medic Bleep and the pager

A Welch Two Sample t-test on distributions indicated a statistically significant (p < 0.05) reduction in task mean duration for TTO & Patient Review categories. At 95% confidence intervals, Medic Bleep saved Nurses: 10 minutes per TTO and 11 minutes per Patient Review – a saving of 21 minutes per shift and Junior Doctors: 10 minutes per Patient Review – a saving of 48 minutes per shift.

Staff experienced a significant improvement on response time with Medic Bleep Question from qualitative questionnaire: ‘On average how long do you wait for a response in your base ward before you can complete your patient’s management discharge plan?’

Key Medic Bleep features which released time to care for patients:

  • Ability for the sender to write a text message with all the required information and see when it has been delivered and read
  • Reduction in workflow disruption as staff no longer had to wait by a phone
  • Ability for receiver to quickly refer to a new message and prioritise their work

Key Medic Bleep features which improved patient safety:

  • Reduced medical errors through clear written instructions and clarifications
  • Staff can communicate in real-time for quicker and informed collaboration
  • Better recall with audit trail
  • Staff demonstrated the appetite to replace the non-cardiac bleep When asked ‘How likely are you to recommend Medic Bleep to a colleague or friend?’ Scale: 1 (not likely) – 10 (extremely likely), the average score was 8.7.
  • More efficient communication improved service for patients with earlier escalation of care, TTOs completed more quickly and earlier discharge.
  • Patients were keen advocates of the new technology
  • Potential savings of £4.5 million per annum for West Suffolk were demonstrated and include but are not limited to: freeing up clinical capacity by the equivalent of 18 full time nurses and 18 full time junior doctors per annum and reducing litigation by up to 21% due to poor inter-team communications per annum

“I was very impressed by the effort Medic Bleep put into making the pilot a success.” Dermot O’Riordan, CCIO, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

“You know what the doctors are going to ask – with Medic Bleep I can give them all the information straight away and say what all the observations are.” Helen Hettema, Midwife-in-charge, Maternity Ward, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

“The effort and time required for communication with the pager means only important information is shared. The easiness of Medic Bleep allows you to inform colleagues more easily of updates and patient progress.” Christopher Rivett, Orthopaedics Junior Doctor, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

“I contacted a consultant in an outside clinic using Medic Bleep which was really helpful because it was Friday afternoon and it meant we got a plan for a patient. Versus not being able to contact him, no answers over the weekend and the patient staying until Monday.” Trudy Brewer, Senior Physiotherapist for Trauma and Orthopaedics Ward, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

“Pagers interrupt everything that you’re doing on the wards. With Medic Bleep I took half a minute or a minute to respond rather than spend 15-20 minutes trying to get back through to them. It meant my colleagues could get on with their work and my day wasn’t as interrupted.” Rachel Belton, Lead Pharmacist for Surgery and Orthopaedics, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Sarah Nolasco, Programme Manager, Eastern Academic Health Science Network,

Irina Higginson, Head of Communications, Eastern Academic Health Science Network,

© Eastern AHSN