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Why the NHS should roll out iPad Pros to frontline staff

On 21st March, Apple announced the latest release in their range of iPads: the 9.7 inch iPad Pro. On the day of the launch, I stated that not only do I expect these to be popular within the consumer market, but I also predicted that the NHS will deploy thousands of these new iPads over the next 12 months.

A big win for the NHS frontline

The addition of Apple Pencil support with the 9.7-inch iPad can be seen as a big win for frontline healthcare workers. They now have a mid-sized tablet with market-leading digital pen technology available, which means they can record signatures for compliance reasons with a stylus. The old days of filling in multiple paper forms can hopefully be consigned to the waste paper bin of history!

We work with lots of NHS Trusts and they can benefit from a device with similar functionality. For example, district nurses can now get patients to sign the tablet with Apple Pencil, rather than signing forms on bits of paper, lugging kilos back to the hospital, then scanning those forms in.

At TotalMobile, we already enable patients and healthcare practitioners to digitally sign tablets with their fingers; this is just the next step.

Obviously this isn’t the first, or only, tablet on the market that can assist our health service in how it delivers care. In fact, the first version of the iPad was released over six years ago. Yes, it has taken some time for health providers to fully embrace the full power of these devices, and workforce mobility in general. However we have seen a vast increase in the uptake and emphasis that is being placed on mobile working, and the impact this is set to have on how health services are delivered cannot be underestimated.

Using this mobile technology will not only modernise working processes and help bring our doctors and nurses into the 21st Century, but in fact when done properly, it can help in tackling some of the biggest challenges that the NHS is currently facing. I know this as I’ve seen it happen with a number of our customers.

The benefits of mobile technology

You’ve likely already heard about many of these benefits, such as the ability to save health care professionals a few hours a day as they no longer have to deal with infuriating paperwork. Great! Who wouldn’t want to experience benefits such as this, especially as it has a range of knock on effects, such as allowing health providers to reduce their often ridiculously high agency staff bills. But it’s often the softer benefits of using mobile technology that we find have the biggest impact.

Benefits like being able to improve the morale of staff by making their lives easier through adopting technology. Staff morale and retention is becoming an increasingly difficult task for health providers, with a recent report finding that four in five healthcare workers have considered leaving their role in the NHS. I don’t think that I need to highlight the pending disaster that looms around the corner if something isn’t done to address this.

A tech savvy workforce

It’s this reason why we find it difficult not to laugh (or scream with frustration) when we occasionally hear that frontline health workers don’t want to make use of mobile technology and that they are happy with the way they are currently working. This just isn’t true. We are all dealing with a far more tech savvy workforce than ever before. A workforce which regularly uses technology, and particularly mobile technology in every aspect of their life. Why should work be any different? In fact when we show our technology to frontline workers we see their eyes light up. Just the realisation that their working lives may not always be a never ending series of paperwork and rekeying information into IT systems revitalises them. The impact of actually using the technology is even greater.

And then there are the most important benefits of all: the improvements that can be made to the quality and safety of care that is delivered to the patient.

We cannot underestimate the importance of ensuring that our healthcare professionals are equipped with the ability to access the right information at the right time, enabling them to make correct, informed decisions. Surely every health organisation appreciates the value of this? Equipping staff with mobile technology is a fundamental way to ensure this.

The most recent iPad represents the pinnacle of user friendly technology. It’s technology that you can give to anyone and within minutes they are comfortable navigating around the device and experiencing the wide range of functionality and benefits that it can provide. It’s not easy to provide a user experience like this, a lot of money and time is spent in delivering it, however this is the experience that is expected by the user. Anything less just wouldn’t be accepted.

So why should the software on the device be any different?

It shocks me when I see organisations invest significant amounts of resource in a device and then fill it with software, often based around legacy records systems, which provide an awful user experience. Straight away they are limiting the power of mobile and the impact it can have. People expect an intuitive, friendly user-experience that meets their needs. It’s important this is reflected in every aspect of the technology they use – hardware and software.

I’m excited to see what the next 12 months are going to bring for mobile within enterprise. The irony is that as tablet sales decline for consumers, we’re seeing an increase in demand from employers. Particularly public sector departments like community healthcare and social care.

Undoubtedly we have the devices available that can transform how services are delivered. Organisations, including those in healthcare, just need to ensure that all aspects of their mobile strategy match this same level of quality.

Colin Reid is CEO of TotalMobile

Image Credit: Rob Hyron / Shutterstock