Webwatch: Instant messaging alert service to help medics flight flu in hospitals

A new WhatsApp-style messaging service has been set up to alert doctors if a patient has been tested positive for flu to help reduce the spread of the virus within hospitals.

Clinicians at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) previously spent more than an hour calling round wards to provide the results of flu tests.

But now, IT experts have created a ‘bot’ which uses the Medxnote messaging app to send flu alerts along with a PDF of the results in detail.

Dr Ben Marshall, a consultant in respiratory medicine, said: “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.

“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.”

A UHS spokesman said: “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 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.”

Helen Harrison, Medxnote project manager at UHS, said: “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.

“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.”

The UHS spokesman added that flu and the complications associated with it caused an average of 8,000 deaths a year in England, with around 6,000 of those people with heart and lung disease.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust / PA Wire.