Digital technology is key to supporting trusts adapt to the pressures presented by COVID-19. From remote working to staff communications, a range of digital innovations are being explored and implemented as part of the NHS’s response to the outbreak.
- All users of NHS mail have now been given free access to Microsoft Teams. The workforce collaboration platform allows staff to send secure messages, make calls, and share and edit individual files and documents on a secure platform. NHS Digital has been supporting a national rollout which is being administered locally. Trusts not using NHSmail will need to contact Microsoft directly. More information can be found on the Microsoft website. The HFMA has published useful tips on using Microsoft Teams for meetings.
- NHS Digital has built a new tool that will allow people with suspected COVID-19 to be issued with a digital sick note. This will relieve some pressure on primary care as patients do not need to leave their home. Notes will be generated and issued to patients at the end of a 111 online triage process if self-isolation is recommended. Once built, the tool will be fully integrated with NHS 111, which can be accessed via 111.nhs.uk or through the NHS app.
- Many boards are increasingly looking at virtual governance meetings via Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Visimeet. Some of these video-conference tools can also be broadcast to larger numbers of staff for Q&A and virtual chats. Other trusts are looking to YouTube and blogs to update their workforce. One mental health foundation trust has already recorded a video update for governors. Another trust has sent around a respiratory care e-learning package to non respiratory staff to help inform and educate.
- With large numbers re-joining the NHS workforce, NHS Digital is working to improve access and permissions to clinical systems via smart cards. A new virtual smartcard solution has been centrally procured reducing the need for physical cards. However physical readers and cards remain available for those who still wish to use them, and smartcards can be bulk printed. NHS Digital has also streamlined its approvals and permission processes for registration.
- NHS Digital is supporting trusts to increase their internet capacity and bandwidth to support with increased demand for virtual services and remote working. Connections can be accelerated by contracting the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).
- PWC has published guidance on mitigating some of the key cyber security impacts of COVID-19, and the steps that organisations should take to address these risks.
- A number of technology companies are supporting the NHS in helping coronavirus patients connect with families and friends. For example, Facebook is making available 2,050 of its Portal video calling devices for patients, service users and care home residents to help those most at risk who are isolating because of the virus.
- A video consultation platform has been centrally procured for all trusts in England. Attend Anywherewill be available for 12 months, with each provider able to access £20,000 of capital funding to buy any hardware needed for roll out. Training and support materials have been made available and a nationally assured Data Protection Impact Assessment template has also been published. The tool shares a safe and secure link with patients that only activates at a certain time. So far there has been positive feedback from trusts, and there have now been 31,000 Attend Anywhere consultations. FAQs have been published for patients and staff.