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Teleconferencing 'shifts hundreds of NHS bed-blockers out the door'

Virtual meeting re-ablement triumph saves £150m

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The Whittington hospital NHS trust is speeding its discharge rates and saving about £150,000 a year by using teleconferencing, according to Jar O'Brien, team leader for Islington's community rehabilitation services.

He said the system, a hosted audio-conferencing service supplied by BT, costs £6,000 a year to run. O'Brien said that savings have been calculated on the basis of a reduction in both bed costs and penalty charges, incurred through a cross-charging mechanism between health and social, for discharge delays.

Typically about 25 patients each day are reviewed during the teleconference, and O'Brien adds that the system enabled the Whittington to free up more than 400 bed-days a year.

The Whittington introduced teleconferencing in May 2009, since when it has moved from being one of the worst performing trusts in London for delayed patient discharge to one of the best.

O'Brien said that each day the hospital social administration team for Islington compiles a spreadsheet of the patients who need to be discharged from hospital.

This spreadsheet is used as the basis for the teleconference, held on week days at around mid-day. It is chaired by O'Brien or a member of his team, and brings together up to 15 people from the patient discharge team, the hospital social work team and community services, such as the re-ablement team.

"We are literally running through the list, seeing which actions need to be carried out and what other information is needed," said O'Brien. "And we literally calling on social workers or ward staff for an update."

He said that technically the system has delivered a good service: "We had more teething problems with our own spreadsheets and processes than we did around the actual BT provision.

"Initially there were a lot of sceptical people, but I championed it and people who were sceptical in week one were no longer skeptical in week two, because it was very easy to use."

Last month the Whittington also announced that it had inked a contract with System C for its Medway patient administration and e-patient record system. The trust intends that the system will go live in 2013.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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