ICU clinicians turn to mobile technology in fight against COVID-19

Over 40 intensive care clinicians at a Surrey hospital have been using mobile technology to safeguard staff and patients, maximise use of limited personal protective equipment (PPE), and save time in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Staff at Guildford’s Royal Surrey Hospital are using robust smartphones from Ascom that meet strict NHS hygiene guidelines to communicate and carry out ‘remote’ ward rounds in the hospital’s 24-bed ICU, where at the early peak of the pandemic there were up to 18 coronavirus patients on ventilators. The smartphones – enabled with single sign-on (SSO) from Imprivata and two-way video consultation technology from Attend Anywhere – enable just one doctor linked remotely to colleagues to conduct ward rounds. The technology is also helping relatives safely stay in touch with their loved ones in hospital.

A senior doctor at the hospital praised the ‘fantastic’ integrated technology, which he says has cut by half the time spent on ward rounds, saved the ICU’s stocks of PPE, and reassured anxious relatives. Consultant Intensivist and Anaesthetist, Justin Kirk-Bayley said: “Usually we have four or five doctors per ward round, but that was becoming impractical with coronavirus patients and limited PPE supplies. Now, just one doctor goes into the quarantined sector of ICU and coordinates a ward round via video on the smartphone, which is projected onto a screen to the team in a meeting room. It is a lot slicker, more efficient, and safer. The technology is giving us back the time we have lost to COVID-19.”

 Dr Kirk-Bayley added the ICU had already begun using the technology to talk to relatives. “One patient who was awake and doing well was able to see and talk to her husband for nearly an hour,” he explained. “The technology worked fantastically well. Nurses will be staying in touch with relatives day-to-day using video on the smartphones.”

Clinical nurse specialist, Claire Richardson, said: “We have introduced ‘virtual visiting’ on all 14 of our adult inpatient wards, and in our departments and community hospitals. The system is ideal for this. A staff member takes the smartphone to the patient, and can quickly and easily sign on to Attend Anywhere for them via SSO, with one tap and no need for passwords. After the visit the patient, relative, and staff, are confident  that no data has been saved, and the smartphone can be thoroughly cleaned to meet infection control requirements.

 “Virtual visiting has made a tremendous difference to our patients and relatives. The system has been particularly beneficial to our elderly patients, who do not have their own devices to have visits with their loved ones, and I’m confident it has helped in their recovery.”

 IT infrastructure project manager, Andy Dargue, said: “We were already looking at using the technology for ‘virtual’ consultations at the Trust, but the COVID-19 outbreak hugely accelerated this. The Imprivata and Attend Anywhere technology was being successfully used in the outpatient clinics but, in response to the requirement from ICU, we brought in the Ascom devices to allow us to make use of the system in the department. We had the smartphones on site and tested in two weeks. It has been an incredible team effort between the Trust and the three companies involved.”

Dr Kirk-Bayley added: “The videoconferencing software can be used via a web browser. You just set and forget. It has a highly reliable quality of connection – no frozen screens, degradation of video, or dropped sound, unlike other systems.”


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