Communication tool could save NHS millions – study suggests

A communication tool created by NHS doctors could save the health service millions, an independent study has shown.

The Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) conducted an investigation into the impact of Forward, a smartphone app which helps NHS workers exchange patient information, make clinical decisions and manage their workload.

Forward was founded by junior doctors who wanted to create an alternative to the use of pagers and landlines on hospital wards, replacing them with an app for clinical staff.

It is currently used by over 100 NHS hospitals and CCGs. The report found that its technology stands to save a Trust just under million (£922,000) in in-year cash and non-cash savings, rising to £44 million should the application be rolled out across all acute Trusts nationally.

Over five years, the study found these savings could reach up to £6.9 million net present value savings for an acute Trust site and £340 million net present value savings for the NHS as a whole (across all acute Trusts). The cash saving for the NHS would be a direct result of avoiding fines and disciplinary action associated with data breaches and reducing pager numbers.

In additional to this, the AHSN concluded that an ever-greater impact of Forward’s technology was set to be non-cash savings. This includes clinicians’ time, reductions in staff turnover and sick days, improvement of patient management and experience, educational opportunities, and improvement of teamwork and overall workflow. These findings were compiled by looking at time savings for selected tasks amongst specific staff groups, with the impact predicted to be even greater if all tasks and all staff groups were accounted for.

When staff at one hospital adopted Forward, 74% of staff reported that the app improved their workplace satisfaction and 68% said that it enabled them to deliver better patient care.

Forward is the number one clinical messaging platform in the NHS and has processed several million clinical messages to date. It allows NHS clinical staff to quickly and securely pass on vital information, replacing the outmoded technology officially used by the NHS – such as pagers – and the clandestine use of insecure commercial tools like WhatsApp. In addition to the financial savings outlined in this report, Forward’s own research found that its technology saved doctors 43 minutes on average per shift through reduced use of pagers, fax machines, switchboards and paper.

Dr Barney Gilbert, co-founder of Forward, said: “It’s incredible to think that this technology, born out of our first-hand frustration as doctors, is helping Trusts, staff and patients right across the country. We’re delighted that this report from one of the NHS’ leading research organisations has evidenced the real, tangible impact of updating the system’s communications infrastructure. We’ve been receiving phenomenal feedback from NHS trusts right across the country and it’s amazing to see quantitative results that demonstrate our potential to save each NHS trust millions, while improving our daily lives as clinicians.”


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