The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Foundation Trust is expanding its use of iPad-based patient questionnaires, and looking at making them available to other trusts.

The trust has been piloting the digitised questionnaires, developed by Decent Group using the FileMaker platform, for patients completing a rheumatoid arthritis health assessment prior to their appointment.

Trust consultant rheumatologist Dr Raj Sengupta, who led the pilot, told EHI the trust is using the software to streamline the way it collects and uses the information.

The iPad-based questionnaire is completed by patients while they are waiting to see a consultant, with the data transferred via a wireless network and displayed on the clinician’s PC using a browser-based reporting tool.

The test is then scored by the software, with the results stored in a database that is integrated with the trust’s EPR system to extract data about upcoming appointments and determine which questionnaire to present to patients.

The clinician can see the questionnaire results in graph and table form, while the results from previous visits are also displayed to identify how the patient’s condition has changed.

Sengupta said the paper-based process, where the patient fills out the form and brings it into the clinic where it is manually scored and discussed, means there is often less time to address other important issues. “We only give patients 15 minutes in outpatients to go through quite a lot, and anything we can do to improve the use of that time is crucial.”

The trust is also looking at how it can use the data to determine when it should bring in patients to check on their condition. “Understanding what the right time is for the patient to be seen again is quite hard, so we’ll be using this with everything else we do to plan better.”

No data is stored on the iPads, and the data is SSL-encrypted and transferred from iPads to a PC using a secure closed wireless network. The iPads are also housed in a special antibacterial case which can be wiped down as part of infection control measures.

Sengupta said about 80 patients took part in the three-month trial with one iPad across two clinics. The trust is planning to build approximately 30 more questionnaires, covering all rheumatoid arthritis conditions, which it intends to make available to any trust which wants to use them.

“It should be usable by NHS organisations around the country, not just us.” He said the next step is to develop the functionality for about questionnaires and put them on the database, while developing a “how-to” protocol for other trusts.