App boosts flow, note taking for patient handoffs, rounding

Photo credit: Getty/Jorge Casais

A smartphone app built for patient handoff and rounding can boost care compared to traditional approaches, and fosters collaborative, real-time patient data entry.

Canada-based McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) researchers who created the app, called The FLOW, reported positive feedback from users and an unexpected benefit in data note taking when also used in a desktop environment according to a study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The tool lets care teams share and enter short notes, which then are logged and tagged in relevant priority.

Overall, 253 healthcare professionals tested the app using their own mobile devices from October 2013 to March 2015. Of those, 127 responded to a survey about their use. More than half of those (57 percent) reported that FLOW helped to improve patient care; 86 of respondents percent wanted to continue using the app.

“Experience of users, mostly physicians, was positive, with the vast majority of them [even past users] wanting to continue using it,” the study authors said. They described the app as “an interesting example of an innovative technology that allows informal notes to be extracted within the medicolegal record, with the clinician able to make this decision.”

The FLOW was built as an add-on to an earlier pediatric hospital app, called V-Sign, developed in 2010 by McGill. 

“This study shows how a handoff and rounding tool was quickly adopted in pediatric and neonatal ICUs in a hospital setting where patient charts were still paper-based,” states the study. “Interestingly, even if not supported by the nursing administrative authorities, the level of use for data entry among nurses and doctors was similar in all units, indicating close collaboration in documentation practices in these ICUs.”

Earlier this month, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston analysed the impact of a web tool that scans electronic patient records to provide clinicians with key information during handoffs. They found that the use of Web-based communication tools during patient handoffs helped to reduce medical errors.

The FLOW app was provided on desktops during the pilot following users’ desire to print notes and forms.

“Overall, it is a typical example of a technology that developed into something different from what it was originally intended to be. This also suggests that clinicians still require paper forms to be in their pockets along with their smartphones,” states the study.

Following the pilot effort, MUHC integrated The FLOW in its adult hospital units and extended capabilities to support patient documentation in ambulatory clinics. The authors suggested that future research will investigate how various usage patterns of The FLOW in different units reflect team specific work practices.