Implementing 4G in NHS hospitals - your questions answered

Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust's Bill Johnston reveals the impact and challenges of widespread deployment of 4G technology

Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is using 4G to improve patient care in the local community.

Nurses at the trust are using mobile wi-fi devices and laptops to work more efficiently when out and about. They can now look up patient information and update records during home visits and when travelling between the trust’s multiple locations. This has meant more time spent with patients and less spent on administration and travelling back to base.

Before 4G, nurses would have to return to their trust base to update patient records and gather information for their next round of visits. Now they can go straight from home and between locations to care for patients without having to return to base so often.

Mobile working with 4G is making real difference and we believe this will continue to open doors to even better patient care in the future

When EE launched 4G in towns across Berkshire, the trust didn’t waste time in taking advantage of the high mobile data speeds. Managers were already believers in mobile working, but had been limited by the connectivity and speed issues of mobile broadband.

Following the success of the trial, the trust is now in the process of enabling 1,200 nurses and other healthcare professionals with mobile working capabilities over the next six months. 4G network coverage and data speeds have given nurses more freedom in planning their patient visits and keeping records up to date. The rollout will extend the service improvements already achieved and will enable the trust to explore more-flexible care options.

Bill Johnston, technology lead at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “4G is helping us to improve the quality of care we provide to patients. By having better access to information, our nurses can make home visits more productive and better identify when patients need different or additional care. Many local people rely on the services we provide, and anything we can do to improve this is a bonus for us. Mobile working with 4G is making real difference and we believe this will continue to open doors to even better patient care in the future.”

Your questions answered

Here, we quiz Bill Johnston about the trust’s approach to 4G adoption and get his advice on future deployments across the UK.

Q You have been an early adopter of 4G. What were the most attractive aspects of the technology for you?

A We’d previously trialled mobile working with 3G, but the connection wasn’t quick or reliable enough for us to invest in the technology. What appealed to us most about 4G was the speed of connection and the areas of Berkshire it was available in. In Berkshire, 4G on EE is five times faster than 3G and our staff can rely on the connection to get access to the information they need while out in the community. Increasing the amount of care we can provide in or near patient homes while improving quality was a priority for us. We wanted to equip our staff with the best technology to improve and increase the levels of patient care. The productivity improvements we have seen vastly outweigh the cost of implementing the system.

Our success rate with the devices has been over 98% and we haven’t had any significant issues with the rollout

Q What can you do using 4G that you were unable to with 3G, and how is this benefiting your business?

A On average, our nurses can see one or two extra patients each day because of the time saved. 4G means nurses can work from wherever they are as if they’re in the office, which wasn’t possible before. Rather than scribbling down notes during visits, then having to travel back to the hospital or base to type and upload them to the system, 4G means our staff can access and record patient information during home visits. By cutting out unnecessary travel time and duplication, nurses have more time to focus on patient care. They can also order equipment and communicate with GPs if needed. This has increased productivity substantially with nurses able to see an extra patient every day. It also helps staff identify and provide the treatment a patient needs.

Q Have you encountered any hurdles as you began supporting 4G services – and how were they addressed?

A So far the 4G trial has been very successful. Our success rate with the devices has been over 98% and we haven’t had any significant issues with the rollout. The only minor hurdle we have had to address is the upskilling of staff that weren’t previously IT literate; however this is an additional benefit to our organisation. To help train our mobile workers, we’ve appointed a dedicated deployment team. This team includes IT technicians, change managers and trainers that work together to make staff comfortable with the technology, resolve issues and support them post deployment with the new ways of working. Nurses and health workers are trained on equipment, which they can then take away with them. By the end of the training programme, 1,200 members of staff who work in the community will have been trained and equipped with 4G, giving Berkshire Healthcare and its clients a modernised, mobile workforce to provide and deliver healthcare.

By having better access to information, our nurses can make home visits more productive and better identify when patients need different or additional care

Q Have you seen the benefits from the use of 4G that you anticipated?

A Yes, 4G is helping us to improve the quality of care we provide to patients. By having better access to information, our nurses can make home visits more productive and better identify when patients need different or additional care. Mobile working with 4G is making a real difference and we believe it will continue to open doors to even better patient care in the future.

Companies