Press release: Hospital trust develops 'WhatsApp-style' flu alert for smartphones

Example flu alert

Clinicians at Southampton’s teaching hospitals now receive instant alerts to inform them if a patient has tested positive for flu and which strain they have via a new ‘WhatsApp-style’ messaging app.

Previously, infection specialists testing patient samples in the laboratory at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust would spend up to an hour calling wards to provide results.

Now, IT experts at the trust have pioneered the development of a ‘bot’ which uses the Medxnote messaging app to send flu alerts along with a downloadable PDF of the results in detail.

As a result, staff are able to ensure prompt isolation and management of those affected to speed up access to appropriate treatment and reduce the spread of the virus to other patients.

Flu and the complications associated with it cause an average of 8,000 deaths a year in England, with around 6,000 of those people with heart and lung disease.

“The introduction of the flu alert and the level of detail it provides instantaneously is a significant development which has the potential to vastly improve the management of patients with influenza in hospital,” said Dr Ben Marshall (right), a consultant in respiratory medicine at UHS.Ben Marshall

“Prompt management and, where necessary, isolation of patients suffering from flu and an understanding of the type of virus is essential in ensuring both their own safety and that of others, so any development that speeds up the process is much-needed.”

Once a clinician is signed in to Medxnote on their own smartphone, they are able to securely contact colleagues with questions about individual patients and share confidential information and images.

They then log out at the end of their shift and no data is saved or stored on their device.

Medxnote is designed to the replace the traditional bleep system and, during a pilot at UHS within two surgical teams last year, 400 messages were sent each day which saved clinicians 26 hours of time in the first week of use.

“The main issue clinicians experience using bleeps is that they don’t know if the bleep is a request for a simple update or for an urgent task, so they treat them all as urgent which prevents them from prioritising,” said Helen Harrison, Medxnote project manager at UHS.

“With Medxnote, clinicians are able to send instant messages to colleagues so they are able to instantly see what the communication is about, no matter where they are, and prioritise and respond appropriately.”

She added: “Above all, we needed to provide modern and versatile ways for staff to communicate quickly and securely across increasingly complex working patterns.

“Medxnote has already transformed communication in the trust and, with advances such as our custom-made flu alert, it could prove to be the start of a revolution in communication across the wider NHS.”

Posted on Monday 21 January 2019