mobile phoneUsing a mobile voice dictation app has enabled mental health clinicians to spend more time with patients and resulted in quicker and more accurate recording of information, a pilot scheme has found.

South Staffordshire & Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (SSSFT), which provides mental health services across Staffordshire, Shropshire and other parts of the country, undertook the pilot, as part of its ongoing strategy to enhance their patients’ experience and operate more efficiently. 

In 2015, Rantmedia, a Cardiff-based digital software solutions provider, was commissioned to develop a bespoke software application to be used on Windows smartphones. Within three months, the application and support system was built, tested and ready to pilot for a fraction of the cost of purchasing an off-the-shelf system. 

Anton Faulconbridge, director at Rantmedia, explained how it works: “We developed an app that clinicians could use to dictate their notes into following an appointment with a patient. Clinicians upload the encrypted recording to a secure server which is accessed by the transcriber who downloads the file for typing into the Trust’s clinical system. The clinician then receives an SMS text message confirming the dictation has been typed and is ready for their validation. 

“Information governance was a critical component of the project as it was vital to ensure no patient identifiable information was exchanged or could be accessed. The phone, the recording and the server storing recordings were fully encrypted and met all NHS guidelines in accordance with the requirements of the information governance toolkit.”

Based on other mobile voice dictation models, the initial pilot involved 20 clinicians from a community mental health team in Shropshire supported by one transcriber. Because of the community-led work undertaken by this team, often in rural locations with limited access to mobile phone connectivity, they were ideally placed to test the app and the supporting process. 

Lasting for 10 weeks, the pilot saw 591 recordings transcribed with an average turnaround time of 16 minutes from upload by the clinician to the recording being available, without validation, in the clinical system for their review. Overall, the results indicate that a mobile voice dictation solution could increase available time for clinical practice, reduce the need for clinical staff to work outside of core hours and also improve the quality of clinical records. Longer-term, it is hoped that the reduction in administration time relating to patient care would result in a greater number of service users being treated and reductions in waiting lists. 

Pete Kendal, associate director of information, management and technology development at SSSFT, who managed the pilot, added: “As a trust we no longer use paper-based medical records and our clinicians fully rely on our online records being accurate. Access to the most up-to-date patient-related information at the touch of a button improves patient safety and makes decision making easier as clinicians are better informed.

“Many of our clinicians enter their own notes and, due to workload, capability and capacity, this may cause delays in recording information about patient care. We have therefore been investigating and piloting a mobile voice dictation solution using a pool of transcribe staff to input this data, enabling us to make more effective use of clinical time. The results of the pilot have informed a proposal for full-scale deployment across the trust.”

The trust is extending the pilot to other clinical teams who work in different environments in order to test the system further.