Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has given Samsung Galaxy 7 tablets to 800 of its staff so they can use purpose-built apps to collect key information while visiting patients.

The move means the trust can comply with a requirement to complete the new community information data set, which involves collecting 150 different data points on patients, such as demographic information, care records and referrals.

The trust covers a large geographical area, so community teams have to travel considerable distances to visit patients. This means that having staff return to base to complete basic administration details is not feasible.

“The motivation behind this project is the new requirements from the community data set and a desire to improve our mobile working,” Clive Taylor, information services commissioning project manager told eHealth Insider.

Northern Devon Healthcare believes it is the only trust in the country to have reacted to the new requirements in this manner.

To develop the system, it enlisted the help of software provider NDL, as it does not employ its own software developers.

App developer Blue Diamond used NDL’s mobile application development platform to develop the app, which allows clinicians to collect patient information via a selection of drop-down boxes.

Although the app runs on the Samsung tablets, it does not require a mobile signal or internet connectivity, which can often be difficult to obtain in the rural areas of Devon. Instead, it can store information and transmit it when a signal is available.

Taylor said: “We serve a population of 484,000, spread over 1,300 square miles. We have 341 acute beds and 343 community beds spread over 17 community hospitals. It goes without saying we need good mobile working.”

Naomi Hooker, manager of the project at the trust, told EHI that it had been a challenge to get some staff to embrace the new technology.

“Staff have been really pleased that we are investing in them. But, as you can imagine, for some it is quite a big jump from using a computer to a touch screen mobile device.

“We have given staff four hours training on using the device, system and application,” she said. Taylor added that Northern Devon Healthcare has also provided e-learning on the system to its staff via their intranet.

The Samsung tablet was chosen over various competitors after the trust provided staff with a sample of tablets. Staff liked the size and efficiency of the Galaxy 7 device.

According to Taylor, the trust has implemented a series of security measures, including Vodafone’s mobile device management system, AirWatch, which provides the trust with the ability to wipe the device if it is lost or stolen.

“The devices are also encrypted and have passwords. If this is entered wrongly ten times, it does a complete wipe, as some of our nurses have found out! They then need to come back and undergo a complete reset,” said Taylor.

The app was first piloted in a two-week trial at the end of February, with the majority of community teams going live in a full roll-out of the system on 12 March.

Due to location issues, some teams are still waiting for the app, but Hooker informed EHI that the system should be fully implemented by the end of April.

The trust is also set to develop the app over the summer, with an extended clinical notes section, and is investigating how clinicians would like to incorporate scheduling within the device.