The Government has pledged £40m to transform slow staff log-in times, one of the main technology frustrations facing NHS employees.
NHS staff currently have to log in to multiple computer programmes when tending to a patient, with each requiring its own log-in details.
I want to harness the best digital technology to improve care for patients and ease the burden on our staff. And, to do that, we need to get the basics right
Some staff need to log into as many as 15 different systems.
This can be time consuming and also requires staff to remember multiple complex passwords or use the same one on multiple systems, which is potentially a cyber security risk.
The new investment will ease the administrative burden on NHS staff, freeing up time for more one-to-one patient care.
It will support projects similar to that seen at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, which implemented single-sign-on technology and reduced the time spent logging into multiple computer systems from 1 minute 45 seconds to just 10 seconds.
With almost 5,000 log-ins performed each day, it saved over 130 hours of staff time.
The ‘log-ins project’ will focus on three main areas:
- Working with IT system suppliers to standardise log-ins and provide multi-factor log-ins, like finger print access, rather than password-led log-ins
- Ensuring trusts update their processes to give staff appropriate access permissions for the systems they need to treat patients
- and integrating local and national systems so staff can access the full range of clinical and workforce systems to support their needs
To bridge the technology gap between the NHS and social care, a further £4.5m will be given to local authorities to develop digital adult social care projects to support the most-vulnerable in society to live independently for longer and to improve information sharing across the NHS and social care services.
Today’s announcements mean we can start to tackle one of the biggest gripes staff have with their tech
Examples of initiatives the money could fund include:
To further improve the digital capbility of NHS trusts, a new ‘digital aspirant’ programme will be set up.
This will provide funding over several years to assist with digital transformation projects so that trusts can provide safe, high-quality and efficient care.
The programme will aim to raise the bar across the NHS by making sure organisations have a core set of capabilities in place.
The Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, will also commit to designing a model of what excellence looks like, so that every provider – from mental health trusts to care homes – knows what they need to do to be outstanding on technology in the 2020s.
This will be assessed as part of the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) inspection regime, with trusts expected to meet minimum technology standards.
Too often, outdated technology slows down and frustrates staff, and prevents them from giving patients their full attention and the care they deserve
Hancock said: “I want to harness the best digital technology to improve care for patients and ease the burden on our staff. And, to do that, we need to get the basics right.
“Too often, outdated technology slows down and frustrates staff, and prevents them from giving patients their full attention and the care they deserve.
“It is frankly ridiculous how much time our doctors and nurses waste logging on to multiple systems.
“As I visit hospitals and GP practices around the country, I’ve lost count of the amount of times staff complain about this.
“It’s no good in the 21st Century having 20th-century technology at work.
“This investment is committed to driving forward the most-basic frontline technology upgrades, so treatment can be delivered more effectively and we can keep pace with the growing demand on the NHS.
Chief executive of NHSX, Matthew Gould, added: “If you work in the NHS, the tech should not be getting in the way of your ability to do your job.
“Technology should be something you rarely think about because it just works.
“Today’s announcements mean we can start to tackle one of the biggest gripes staff have with their tech.
“It will allow staff across the NHS to spend more time with their patients and less time fighting their computers.”
Welcoming the investment, software suppliers say the savings possible through improved sign-on technology could far exceed that reported at Alder Hey.
Single sign-on (SSO) specialist, Imprivata, has worked with Bolton NHS Foundation Trust to implement its OneSign solution, which is in use in around 55% of all health trusts in the country.
Last year its NHS customers carried out 32.5 million SSO log-ins; at an average saving of 45 seconds per log-in, that’s 16,927 full days of time saved in one year.
While SSO is proven to deliver dramatic time savings when implemented across health organisations; its true potential is as the starting point for harnessing exciting technologies including mobile devices, medical devices, and the Internet of Things, as well as AI, all of which will enable clinicians to do their jobs more effectively in future
Gus Malezis, president and chief executive of Imprivata, said: “Where SSO becomes really powerful is the way that it opens up many more opportunities to harness technology, for example the use of mobile devices at the bedside and out in the community.”
At Bolton NHS Foundation Trust OneSign has been installed on mobile devices used for eObservations.
Vital signs are recorded by staff on shared mobile devices with just the tap of a proximity badge for the staff member to login and authenticate.
Not only does this save time and reduce reliance on manual paper-based systems, but it improves the security of sensitive patient data, provides an audit trail, and the positive experience for the clinicians and care-givers means that they are more engaged with the technology and more likely to engage with the next new thing that comes along.
Phillipa Winter, the trust’s chief informatics officer, said: “The primary objective of the eObservations project is to improve patient safety and quality of care, ensuring patients receive the best care to improve outcomes.
“Imprivata Mobile Device Access is an important factor in achieving this goal.
“When time is of the essence, every second counts; and clinicians now have fast and secure access to the most-up–to-date patient information to inform clinical decisions and patient care.”
Malezis added: “Effective use of technology plays a crucial part in delivering the complex, multi-disciplinary care that patients expect today.
“Digital Identity and Single Sign On provides fast, efficient, and secure access to Healthcare IT systems including legacy and modern EHR systems with access to up-to-date patient information.
It provides a ‘quick win’ for IT because the end users who have been struggling with complex passwords and overly-long login times gain measurable improvements in their work experience, which, in turn, translates into enhanced patient experience and outcomes
“Through SSO, this access is completely transparent to the doctor, nurse and other healthcare worker.
“But, while SSO is proven to deliver dramatic time savings when implemented across health organisations; its true potential is as the starting point for harnessing exciting technologies including mobile devices, medical devices, and the Internet of Things, as well as AI, all of which will enable clinicians to do their jobs more effectively in future.
“Furthermore, SSO that is designed to enhance and support natural clinical workflows will boost engagement and break down the barriers to care.
“It provides a ‘quick win’ for IT because the end users who have been struggling with complex passwords and overly-long login times gain measurable improvements in their work experience, which, in turn, translates into enhanced patient experience and outcomes.”
And Steve Brain, executive director of health and care at Civica, told BBH:“It’s great to see the Government committing to a £40m cash injection to help hospitals and clinics introduce single-system logins in the next year.
"This will come as a welcome relief to staff that were reportedly logging into 15 different systems, wasting valuable time that could be spent on patient care.
"Single sign-on authentication has long been an inherent feature for accessing intranet systems in many private organisations, so it’s positive to see the NHS taking steps to catch up.
“Eradicating the siloes caused by out-of-date systems makes it easier, quicker and safer for those who work in the NHS to deliver care and will help organisations to not only retain their staff, but continue to attract new talent.
"Implementing intuitive technology to help frontline workers and clinicians will undoubtedly be crucial to supporting a strained NHS.”