Interview, Secondary Care

Interview Series: Leila Brown, Digital Programme Manager, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital NHS FT

As part of our Interview Series, this week we speak with Leila Brown, a Digital Programme Manager at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. We speak about the work the Trust are currently doing and how they have made the most of digital services during Covid-19.

Tell us about the work you are doing at your organisation?

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust published their Digital Futures strategy in 2019 which set out the Trust’s ambitions for the next five years and we have spent the last year working through all the workstreams.

Over the past year we completed the work to digitise our clinical pathways and improve interoperability as part of the Global Digital Exemplar Programme. This also included the implementation of Share2Care, a region wide proof-of-concept shared records platform. Thanks to a number of pieces of work spear-headed by the Digital team, Alder Hey is now paper-free across most inpatient areas. The Trust also achieved HIMSS level six status in December last year and is now working towards level seven accreditation.

How have you used Telemedicine during the pandemic and how has it benefitted you?

At the start of the pandemic we felt it was essential to implement Telemedicine solutions in the Trust, to support accurate, remote clinical decision-making. With funding support from Alder Hey Children’s charity, the Innovation and Digital teams worked together to implement this solution, enabling patients to be clearly viewed and assessed by clinicians without needing to be physically present and allowing for earlier intervention. Additionally, the ability to assess remotely means only those patients who require admission to Alder Hey are now transferred between sites, improving patient safety.

A substantial proportion of staff were required to shield and were therefore unable to provide face-to-face patient care. The specialist telemedicine equipment and software has allowed clinicians to make decisions on patient care remotely, enabling those shielding to do daily ward rounds, and contribute to the staff rota.

Overall staff experience has improved as the ability to remotely consult with multiple clinicians with a view of the patient has improved clinical interactions and knowledge transfer.

Talk us through how you have implemented virtual visiting and consultations.

The ambition of the hospital was to enable as many clinicians as possible to deliver care to their patients via video calls. Within a six-week period we went from no virtual consultations to nearly 600 a week across the medical, surgical and community divisions. From our Friends and Family test data, we have been able to see that overall experience is positive with 93% reporting their experience was ‘very good’ or ‘good’.

The pandemic also meant a restriction for on-site visiting of our children and young people. In response, the team built tablets installed with Skype, Whatsapp and Spotify and assigned free generic accounts for patients to use. This Virtual Visiting solution meant patients could still communicate and share music with their families, which was so important during these unprecedented times.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced during the pandemic and how have you overcome them?

The achievements of digital transformation at Alder Hey in response to the pandemic have been astounding. The biggest challenges we faced were around restrictions for numbers of people allowed on site, shielding clinicians and finding technologies to support new ways of working in a short space of time.

Our first challenge was to enable any staff member who could work from home to do so, ensuring they had the tools to perform as effectively as they would on site. The Digital team purchased, built and distributed 1,250 devices for staff to use at home and supported the rapid roll out of Microsoft Teams across 3,800 members. The Executive Team has made use of the Live Broadcast functionality as a way of keeping touch with staff across the organisation during a worrying and isolating time for many. This broadcast receives in excess of 10,000 views each month.

Due to the pandemic, many services were not allowed to carry out face-to- face appointments anymore. Without the ability to conduct video consultations, we would have had to rely solely on telephone consultations, which may have meant vital observations would have been missed. The implementation of virtual consultation software meant that patients who would otherwise have missed their appointments were still able to be cared for.

In response to shielding clinicians and the need to protect patients and staff from the virus, the Trust’s new ways of working included a number of Virtual Medicine initiatives.

What is in the pipeline for 2021?

We will continue to work through the Digital Futures Strategy, continuing to create a digital future where we can deliver safer care for our children and young people and supporting our staff in making each working day better with the use of digital infrastructure.

As we move forward, we will continue to build on what we have implemented digitally through the pandemic. This includes increasing our use of telemedicine and virtual consultations as well as supporting our staff who continue to work from home. We hope to harness the positive outlook many staff and patients now have towards digital technologies in moving the Trust even further along in its digital journey.