When it comes to managing patients on wards, doctors employ a variety of techniques, many of which are antiquated and highly insecure.
Perhaps the most common method is a paper list, prepared on a computer that has a list of current patients, their ailments and future plans. This list is updated each day and shared between all the doctors.
As well as being insecure, it is highly inefficient in terms of patient management. Dr Ed Wallitt, Founder of PodMedics, has released his first app, HouseOfficer for the iPhone which aims to bring patient management workflow into the digital age.
HouseOfficer is specifically designed for junior doctors (“junior doctors” are the equivalent of “resident physicians” in the US) working in the hospital and designed to provide a more effective method of managing patients and their associated ward jobs. There are also options to assist with on-call as well as improving communication within the hospital.
Initially, HouseOfficer needs setting up.
This involves entering the wards which the user works on as well as inputting basic details of each patient on the ward. As the screenshots show, this is a highly attractive user interface which is easy on the eye and quick to use. I was able to input basic patient data very rapidly and this is probably the most arduous task associated with this app.
Once the initial patient data is in, it is very easy to add jobs to do. The basic home screen has a list of patients and highlights any jobs that need doing. Tapping on a patient displays the list of jobs and these can be easily ticked off by tapping on the job. Reminders and further details can be set for each job if required. One area that I found frustrating was the fact that I couldn’t see a list of all the jobs I had to do ranked by priority.
In order to view jobs, you need to go into each individual patient but this means that you need to mentally assign a priority to the order you see patients. This could be easily rectified by adding an ability to view by job. Similarly, there is no search function, which can be annoying when you remember you need to order an urgent angiogram but can’t remember which patient needs it. Currently, the only way around this is to manually trawl through all the patients on the list.
These drawbacks aside, HouseOfficer is an excellent tool for managing patients and their jobs. This app has other excellent features as well. There is a feature to help order jobs required during on-call sessions. These are very similar to the ward section with the main difference being the list is of jobs rather than patients. A little information bubble can be pulled up with further details including the patient’s name, identifier and location. This time it is not possible to rank jobs by priority and they are ordered in the way they are input. Tapping on a job causes it to be ticked off and moved to the bottom of the list.
The hospital directory system is designed to improve communication. Once the user has put in a base number for the hospital, the app can call extensions from within the app. This is a very useful area to keep track of important numbers without filling up your personal phone book/carrying round a piece of paper.
In terms of security, HouseOfficer forces you to set a passcode when you first open the app. All data is encrypted onto the iPhone in order to prevent unauthorized access. This is considerably more secure than highly sensitive pieces of paper which can be left in all manner of places.
Future updates of HouseOfficer are likely to include a unique swipe to transfer gesture whereby two users of HouseOfficer can send an updated list between two phones simplifying handover and making sure everyone has the latest patient information
- Great user interface and design
- The idea behind the app to digitally manage patients
- Directory phonebook and in-app calling
- Ability to add jobs to do and view by patient
- No search function
- Unable to view list of ward jobs by priority
- Unable to prioritize on-call jobs
- HouseOfficer offers an exciting insight into the future of medicine and patient management
- It simplifies patient management and helps order jobs effectively thus reducing risk of errors and thereby improving patient safety
- A great app which is sure to improve with future updates