A couple of weeks ago we received a surprise in our inboxes. It was a photo showing an app created with our platform being used in an operating theatre. The photo was sent to us by one of our clients, Dr. Søren Carstens, Senior Consultant in Anaesthesia & Intensive Care at Roskilde University Hospital, Denmark.
Needless to say the photo filled us up with pride: mobile apps had finally made their way into the medical field, contributing to faster and more efficient communications across departments.
Here is the story behind this cutting-edge mobile project.
Serena: Good morning Dr. Carstens, thanks for taking the time for this chat. Before we start talking about the project, could you tell us a bit more about your job?
Sure. I work as Senior Consultant for Roskilde University Hospital, Denmark. My specialty is Anaesthesia & Intensive Care with primary function as a coordinating Doctor for our Operating theathres. The work also includes performing anesthesia and emergency care including Intensive Care management.
S: And I guess that was the reason why you started looking for a mobile solution, to be able to coordinate these tasks more easily…
Yes, among other reasons. I started looking into mobile in the attempt to solve two major problems that we have at the hospital.
As Anesthetist, you are involved in many sorts of different clinical activities in one day. This entails planned and emergency anesthesia for surgery, teamleader for cardiac arrest team, or transportation of very sick people to intensive care department and their further treatment. In other words, we don’t work in an office, but have to be very flexible on where we perform our duties.
Some of the guidelines we need to follow are very complex and often described in detailed flowcharts. Like pilots, we follow these flowcharts and checklists on the go. It is important to stick to the flowchart to get the best care and not forget small steps. This information should be easily on hand when the medical staff is away from the office.
S: Dr. Carstens, please help me get a better idea of these “guidelines”. What are they exactly?
Well, right now in Denmark all hospital procedures go through an accreditation process, so for every process or treatment we do there has to be a specific guideline to follow for best care. Of course, it is not possible to follow strictly these guidelines in all types of emergencies, but they have been formulated to give medical staff a standard to hold by. These standards are constantly updated as medical research finds new ways of coping with emergencies.
S: And how do you keep track of all these guidelines?
These guidelines are kept in a massive document system, to which many hospitals in the country are connected. This allows medical staff to check out procedures applied in other hospitals in case of emergencies for which guidelines are missing in their own hospital.
S: And I imagine this database is getting bigger and bigger…
Exactly. The database has become huge and it gets more and more difficult to swiftly search for the guidelines you need in situations of emergency. Most of the time, you use a very small amount of these guidelines on a daily basis, so I wanted to make it easier to access these guidelines from your phone, just like making a call.
S: Fantastic, I see. You mentioned two reasons why you started considering an app. The first was to simplify access to this huge amount of guidelines and documents. What about the other one?
Well, I wanted to improve communications among doctors and departments using mobile technologies. I wanted to create a telephone list to access via app to allow medical staff to communicate among them anytime and anywhere in the hospital.
You know, before we implemented apps in our daily routine, if you needed to get in touch with one of your colleagues from a different department, you had to go find the paper phone book somewhere in the hospital and browse through the names.
I used to make a shortlist of the phone numbers I used most frequently and keep it in my pocket, but the problem is that these numbers may change every now and then.
Thanks to the app, you can access all the phone numbers on the go and update them on the fly for everyone.
On top of this, the app enables us to comminicate through SMS, and to prioritize our contact needs. For instance, when a doctor is talking to a patient it is annoying to receive calls all the time. An SMS is much more appropriate.
S: Absolutely, I can imagine how important it is for medical staff to be able to communicate swiftly and from anywhere in the hospital.
Are there any other platform features that you use on a regular basis in your app?
Sure. I just described the two core activities that can be performed through the app, but it comes with several other features.
I have implemented a form system to gather feedback on the app and carry out research on certain hospital procedures that need to be monitored over time. For example, if we want to monitor how much time we spend on epidural pain treatment on a weekly basis, I can create a form with specific questions and my colleagues can fill it in via app and send it to the form analytics panel, where I can keep track of all the replies submitted over the week.
The analysis of this data can help us optimize the work of each department, as we can determine whether we are using the appropriate amount of resources for each activity or treatment.
S: This is all very interesting, the way you managed to integrate the app in your daily work routine. Have you got any plans to further expand the use of the application for medical tasks?
Of course. We would like to use the app to monitor the work and time needed to perform different tasks. Right now we have 6 young doctors training to become anaesthetists and they have to list all the activities they do on a daily basis.
For example, in order to become a specialist, you have to perform a certain amount of specialist treatments, like epidurals, spinal anesthesia, intubation etc. Now all they have to do is submit the activity through the in-app form and all the information will be gathered in the form analytics panel waiting to be processed by the specialist in charge of the education of all the doctors. This make it very easy to keep the pulse of all the training doctors’ activities.
S: So if I get this right, you are currently using the app for internal use only. Are you ever going to make the app available for patients?
Yes, but the thing is that the app contains a lot of contact details that we would rather not to spread publicly. So we need to limit access to certain sections of the app.
Moreover, we have a lot of patients who come to the hospital for the fourth or fifth operation and they don’t really need to talk to the anaesthetist every time, but we still need to fill in the papers for them, so they have to come to the hospital and sit and wait to talk to us. As a spin-off project, we want to create a dedicated app to allow these patients to send the relevant information via app, so we can list them and send the pre-operation documents via app.
S: Sounds like a fantastic project! I can feel your enthusiasm about the app potential, but I was wondering whether it has been difficult for you to persuade your colleagues and the hospital management to adopt mobile technologies.
We all use smartphones and apps in our daily life and we are all familiar with this way of thinking of tapping a button and getting a service. So I thought to apply the same process and mindset to medical tasks that we regularly perform. This made the adoption of mobile technologies very natural and smooth. They all embraced the idea of the app with enthusiasm because they immediately realized the benefits it could bring to their daily work. The app does not need a manual, it explains itself.
Indeed, I am very happy to announce that Roskilde University Hospital have chosen to support the project with €26.000 to provide all medical staff with smartphones in order to be able to use the app for their daily tasks.
S: That’s great news. I’m really happy to hear that and we are proud you decided to use AppsBuilder as a partner for your project. By the way, what were the key reasons why you selected AppsBuilder?
When I realized the hospital’s major organizational and communications problems we discussed earlier on, I first wanted to learn programming myself. But my main job is to be a doctor and it is not easy to learn the programming language when you have limited time. So I started browsing the Internet looking for an all-in-one platform for mobile development. I bumped into a few of them but what struck me about AppsBuilder was the flexibility of the tool in terms of design options and features. It offers a wide range of content modules that are easy to use and versatile, and many features for design customization. If the design is appealing, the app is certainly more inviting to use.
S: Absolutely. Before we end this lovely chat, I want to ask you if you would recommend that other hospitals integrate mobile apps in the organization of medical tasks.
Of course. Actually, I think that this app can be considered as a prototype for similar projects, and I am already looking into the possibility to provide other hospital departments with a tailor-made app for their needs.
There are a lot of medical apps out there, but they are general and do not contain infomation fo specific departments. Intergrating mobile technologies into the clinical world will improve process workflow leaving doctors with more time to dedicate to patient care.