Health Tech Awards 2022: excellence in engagement and communication

Our Health Tech Awards finalist in the category of ‘excellence in engagement and communication’ are:

App Rail

Overview: App Rail’s SpeakUp app empowers NHS staff to anonymously report concerns regarding key issues such as bullying, racism, malpractice and patient safety to the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, an independent source of advice.

Why?  Empowering staff to continuously improve the organisation from the outside out results in better working conditions and quality of care, and reduces employee attrition.

What happened? The Freedom to Speak Up Guardian from University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire collaborated with App Rail in development and testing of Speak Up, with the aim of helping staff to feel empowered to speak up and to make it easier for her team to address concerns. Using the intuitive and accessible app, staff can provide actionable information about their concerns; questions are customisable, but the default questions include the clinician’s speciality, type of concern, location, previous efforts to resolve the issue and a description of the issue. The web portal enables ambassadors to manage concerns quickly and easily. Staff can select who should address their concerns if they would like to, by choosing a specific ambassador or the guardian. Since the launch, concerns raised have increased by 40 percent.

Looking ahead. Staff have expressed that the platform’s development has raised morale in regards to concerns being taken seriously within the trust, and the increase in concerns raised supports better patient care for the future.


Overview: Apira’s ‘ePCR changing hearts and minds’ communication strategy was devised and delivered on behalf of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust.

Why?  The aim of convincing 4000 paramedics across the region that the usage of EPCR system would ease stress and frustration.

What happened? The three-stage campaign included training as a communication tool to neutralise negativity. The strategy included activities that ambulance crews could review on the move, with short, sharp messaging combining communications and engagement into a single strategy. Key messages included that the new system would be fully managed and properly supported, and would greatly reduce staff frustration, and the fact that the current software and hardware were no longer economical to repair. Communications and training happened through multiple channels and content formats, with success measured through surveys and happiness ratings, engagement and completion rates of training courses, analysis of responses to messages, and ePCR usage.

Looking ahead. With ambulance staff now using the ePCR, frustration has reduced and patient experience has improved. Additionally, the communications and training has enabled people to ask questions and provide feedback, so staff feel greater ownership and that they are being listened to.

FollowApp Care

Overview: FollowApp aims to transform how dentists communicate with their patients through use of a web app, enabling dentists to follow up with their patients without spending additional time on each person.

Why?  Dentistry is at risk of being left behind as technology transforms the healthcare experience; dentistry is only mentioned three times in the NHS’s 136-page Long Term Plan.

What happened? FollowApp is a web app for dentists that allows them to follow up with every patient that passes through the practice automatically, with no extra time required. Patients receive follow-ups over SMS with web-links to interactive surveys, with no app download required. The system integrates with the dentist’s practice management software and any concerns raised by patients are presented back to the dentist as prioritised alerts, allowing the dentist to respond in the app via two-way SMS communication. Dentists also get a collated view of all patient feedback, giving them the opportunity to improve their practice. FollowApp has been working with dental chains and small providers for the last five years, with more than 5000 dentists using the platform worldwide.

Looking ahead. Feedback indicates that being able to see patient opinions is helpful for dentists and enable practices to build trust by improving the relationship with the patient.

EVAD – Think Healthcare

Overview: EVAD’s Think Healthcare cloud telephony platform is designed to help bridge the communications gap between practices and patients, post-pandemic.

Why?  EVAD’s Think Healthcare team were approached by a large multisite GP practice from Wales with a number of challenges such as workload pressures, changes in service requirements from COVID, and administrative burden from contractual obligations.

What happened?  EVAD sat down with the practice to customise the core NHS cloud telephony platform to their local needs. The platform is flexible and configurable, including direct integration with the GP practice clinical system to enhance patient service whilst also generating practice-based efficiencies. As the practice had been struggling with connection issues and performance of other systems, a dedicated fibre connection was used so that there was no impact to the bandwidth available for critical clinical systems. Key features included data being customised to match the Welsh Access Standards contract requirements; directly integration with the practice clinical systems; flags for key information such as whether the patient was hard or hearing, outstanding vaccinations or abusive behaviour; and the automatic call-back functionality, to ensure that patients do need to wait in a long queue.

Looking ahead. EVAD’s team ensured that the setup could be flexibly scaled to future developments, including federated working with their branch and other local surgeries.

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Overview: Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust designed an online Symptom Checker to support children and their families, so that families can determine which service is suitable for their needs.

Why?  Following the pandemic, Alder Hey noted a rise in emergency department attendances, with figures rising to over 113 percent of those seen in 2019.

What happened?  Alder Hey began a programme of work to analyse this data and to implement changes in how patients were managed upon presenting in the emergency department. The analysis showed a clear pattern in the increase in attendances, with a disproportionate number of patients triaged as ‘green’, indicating that many could be seen by services other than the emergency department. Alder Hey built an online Symptom Checker to reduce unnecessary attendances, with the aim of reducing the number of green triages by 10 percent and improving family experience by 20 percent. The initiative has been hugely successful, with over 81,000 views of the web-based tool since the launch. Feedback shows that parents and carers rated the tool at an average of four out of five in usefulness, and over 92 percent said that they were likely to use it again.

Looking ahead. The Symptom Checker was recently showcased in a national urgent care visit, and as a continuous development, it can be adapted to reflect patient responses.