NHS staff at a major hospital in Southampton are managing the surge in people arriving with Coronavirus symptoms by using technology to quickly find out who has the virus and who doesn’t.
Doctors, nurses and specialists at University Hospital Southampton have switched to receiving patients test results on their mobile phone thanks to a bot in Microsoft Teams. This has cut the amount of time it takes to discover if someone has the virus from hours to minutes.
Patients with negative test results can then be moved out of isolation units, where they are routinely placed if they show symptoms, and onto a ward, freeing up space for new people arriving at the hospital.
Previously, healthcare staff would check a desktop computer on a ward or in an office every few hours to see if test results had come in.
Dr Ashwin Pinto, a neurologist at the hospital, said: “We can now give doctors and nurses real-time data. I can get COVID-19 results, which come up on my phone instantly as soon as they are released by the lab.
“We can know where that patient is, so we can make sure they go to the right care environment and that staff are safe as well. That’s been transformational.”
University Hospital Southampton also has a notification channel to alert everyone if a staff member is found to have Coronavirus.
The bot has been created by Microsoft partner Medxnote for use in Teams, which is also being used by healthcare staff to communicate and share information, even when they are not in the hospital. Doctors and nurses can also use Teams to alert colleagues instantly if they are needed in a specific area of the hospital.
Similar bots are being used in NHS Foundation Trusts across the country, including Liverpool University Hospitals and Mid Cheshire NHS Foundation Trust.
All NHS staff were given free access to Teams to support them as they work. Doctors and nurses typically use a combination of pagers and phone calls to communicate. However, mobile phone calls took too long and were difficult to answer while working, and information that was shared was hard to record and track.
Dr Pinto said: “We realised that we needed to surface information in real time. We wanted to be able to give key information directly to the junior doctors so they could know exactly whom to see and whom to prioritise. Teams is the only product we’ve been able to use that surfaces data in a really simple format for the junior doctors and allows them to share it so they can work as a team to prioritise patients.”
Laura Robinson, Health & Life Sciences lead at Microsoft UK, said: “It is crucial that NHS staff can communicate and collaborate quickly and easily, especially in times of crisis. No matter where they are in a hospital, doctors and nurses need to send and receive information in order to offer the best care to patients. Microsoft is proud to be helping healthcare workers on the frontline of the Coronavirus pandemic.”