Messaging app could save NHS £44 million annually, says study

An app-based clinical messaging tool created by NHS doctors could save the NHS £44 million a year, according to a new study.

The Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) conducted an in-depth investigation into the impact of Forward, a smartphone app which helps NHS workers exchange patient information, make clinical decisions and manage their workload.

Created by junior doctors, the app was designed as an alternative to the cumbersome use of pagers and landlines on hospital wards, replacing them with a safe bespoke app for clinical staff.

The messaging tool is the number one such platform used in the NHS and has processed several million clinical messages to date.

It allows NHS clinical staff to quickly and securely pass on vital information, replacing the outmoded technology officially used by the NHS – such as pagers – and the clandestine use of insecure commercial tools like WhatsApp.

At the beginning of the year health secretary Matt Hancock called on hospitals to ban the use of pagers by the end of 2021.

Not everyone agrees with Hancock’s pager purge, with some in the health service arguing that there are still advantages to pagers such as long battery life and the reliability of the network.

Hospitals are notorious for their patchy wi-fi and mobile data signals, and pagers run on dedicated radio-frequency networks that easily penetrate buildings.

But Forward seems to have overcome some of these issues and is currently used by over 100 NHS hospitals and care commissioning groups (CCGs).

An evaluation report found that Forward stands to save one Trust just under £922,000 in annual cash and non-cash savings, which could rise to £44 million if the app is used in all acute Trusts nationally.

Over five years, the study found these savings could reach up to £6.9 million net present value savings for an acute Trust site and £340 million net present value savings for the NHS as a whole.

Cash savings come from avoiding fines and disciplinary action associated with data breaches and reducing pager numbers.

Non-cash savings include clinicians’ time, reduced staff turnover and sick days, improvement of patient management and experience, educational opportunities, and improved teamwork and overall workflow, Forward said.

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