As with many other things during the pandemic, the requirement for all patient-facing staff in NHS trusts to perform asymptomatic self-testing for COVID-19, has been introduced rapidly and with little time for planning.
In the absence of a national system, and under significant time-pressure to roll out self-testing, many organisations have been forced to rapidly implement solutions to distribute thousands of test kits and provide a secure and easy way for staff to regularly submit their test results. As a result, infection control within the NHS is now being managed in a plethora of ways – including using paper, Excel spreadsheets or online forms that are either open to the internet or hosted on intranets that are often inaccessible from staff member’s homes, where the tests are being performed.
So, how can the people responsible for managing staff-testing within NHS organisations find and roll out an appropriate solution? We’ve put together this list to inform that decision-making:
- Is the tool digital?
At this point, non-digital solutions are likely to cause more problems than they solve, given the scale and speed of deployment that is required. Digital tools have the benefit of being securely accessible from anywhere, are often flexible, and require significantly less administration time to manage processes than analogue methods. If information can be inputted directly, and can be used to produce useful, actionable insight, this is a strong marker that the solution will not only help you make Public Health England returns in line with statutory requirements, but will also help you make decisions about how to manage the virus and its impact on staffing within your trust.
2. How is data managed?
Data security is a key concern with any solution – digital or otherwise – and this includes not only how data is collected and stored, but also how it is shared. Where possible, work with solutions that regularly perform Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs), publish a DSP Toolkit, and are ISO 27001 certified.
3. How flexible is the solution?
What NHS organisations need is changing rapidly. Now more than ever, technology suppliers should listen and be adaptable to their customers’ needs. Flexible technologies may also be able to meet future needs, making for a more sustainable relationship.
4. How quickly can it be deployed?
Things are moving fast and staff are already self-testing, so something that is ready to go, or near-enough ready to go, should be a priority. However, the concern with time should be balanced with due consideration for privacy, security and user experience.
5. How much does it cost?
Value for money is important, so confirm that all upfront costs (such as set-up and training) and ongoing costs (licensing and support) are satisfied with the current and planned service costs.
2020 has been an extraordinary year, and in many ways has helped the NHS take leaps forward that may have otherwise taken years. In our experience, it is vital to find solutions and suppliers that will work in partnership with you, understand your needs, and want to sustain a relationship into the future.
As an alumnus of the DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator, and as someone who believes the NHS is worth protecting, I hope that asking yourself these five questions help you find the solution you need – not just for the current challenge of staff self-testing, but whatever comes next.
Infinity Health is currently working with three NHS trusts to manage asymptomatic staff self-testing using Lateral Flow Devices required by NHS England. With Infinity, staff are sent unique links to securely submit their results twice a week, ensuring submission rates are high and results are received in real-time. Mandatory reporting for PHE is produced quickly and easily, saving time and the spread of the virus, and the success of the self-testing programme, to be monitored.
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