The NHS is a world leader in medicine and technology. Yet many archaic systems remain in place at hospitals around the country.
Infinity Health is a healthcare task management platform working to improve information flow within healthcare. Co-founder Elliott Engers developed the platform alongside NHS doctor Adam Benton, after witnessing the pitfalls of handover first-hand.
“Adam and I were supposed to meet after one of his shifts but he was running late as usual, because of the handover,” Elliott tells Health Tech World.
“We finally met up and I saw him answer his phone, pull out a folded Excel printout and start reading out the status of all the patients he saw that day while trying not to share any identifiable information.
“It was in that moment that Adam said, ‘if you could just digitise this process, it would change everything.’”
The duo learned that communication issues, many due to paper-based processes were responsible for more than a third of adverse events in healthcare. There was so much scope for error and so much information being lost.
The Infinity platform enables staff to log, share and co-ordinate tasks in real time, replacing unsecure, scribbled notes and creating a long-overdue alternative to dated ‘bleeps’.
Infinity spent seven years working alongside frontline teams which allowed them to solve the biggest problems that suck up so much valuable time.
“Our tool can be used to co-ordinate care in real time. So, imagine doctors and nurses on shift communicating via mobile devices by logging their tasks. All of this is shared on large dashboards that can be viewed on the wards or within teams.
“That real-time task management, efficiency, consistency, is really helpful, and safer.”
The technology is in place to take on one of the biggest problems facing the NHS today.
More than six million people were on the waiting list for pre-planned NHS treatment in England in December 2021 – more than a tenth of the population. The NHS is working to clear the backlog with new initiatives.
“One strategy that’s being given a huge amount of focus is patient-initiated follow-up, also known as ‘PIFU’.
“We already know that two thirds of outpatients appointments are follow-ups, many of which are entirely unnecessary .
“Sir Jim Mackey, author of NHS Elective Recovery plan and chief executive of Northumbria hospital trust, said “two-thirds of outpatients volume is review, and we have all personally experienced pointless reviews of very low clinical value and low patient-experience value”.
“That’s a huge amount of wasted clinical time that could be used for seeing patients and reducing waiting times.”
Infinity can support this in several ways, Elliott says. The first is to make it easy for clinicians to see which patients are on what clinical pathway and which have been followed up.
The second is to work with patient engagement portals to make it really easy for patients to request a follow-up appointment should they still need one.
“Clinicians are also telling us that if they were able to check in on a patient’s symptoms regularly and get a response, they could put more patients onto a digital outpatients programme like PIFU.
“We’re now working with clinical teams to ask, what kind of language would you use in this assessment form? And then how are you going to review the form and determine that you don’t need a follow-up?
“It’s also important to identify where patients don’t engage. That’s a real red flag. We need to make it super-easy for clinical teams to identify that and then take action.
“We’re focusing on making this strategy of digital patient-initiated follow-up something that’s much more clinically acceptable, and much more scalable.”
Where a patient would otherwise be admitted to a physical in-demand hospital bed, they may now be sent home to continue their treatment in a ‘virtual ward’.
Infinity is working with London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust to manage its virtual ward caseload. The initiative has saved considerable person hours, with one team making 3000 fewer calls a year, saving eight hours a day of admin time. The team’s patient capacity has increased by 55 per cent.
“Infinity allows you to continue that same quality of care, and have all of the context, all of that information, in the patient’s home, so they can leave hospital sooner.
“We’re most helpful to the care setting that’s under the most pressure at the moment, which is in the hospital.
“Emergency Departments have been under a huge amount of pressure for the past two years and now outpatient departments have to contend with an unprecedented backlog – it is critical they have the tools they need to face that challenge.”
While it’s now mostly being used for vaccine passes and some medical records access, Elliott anticipates it becoming a ‘touch point’, where patients request appointments and complete assessments.
“Knowing when your discharge is or that it’s been updated and why, when your medications will be ready, automatically sharing discharge letters – those sorts of things we can certainly support through the NHS App.”
Meanwhile, Infinity is part of a national pilot programme aimed at reducing the elective care backlog.
“It’s about defining the most appropriate way to manage outpatients.
“We’re going to need to build consensus and evidence for this, so if anyone’s looking to do reduce their waiting lists and improve their new-to-follow-up ratio, I’d really like them to get in touch.”
This is an excerpt from our Special Report – Working Smarter in a Post-Covid World