Paper-based patient referrals can result in delays due to administrative burden and the time taken to communicate with other staff members. Bleepa is an application that aims to enhance staff communication and reduce the number of administrative tasks through digital management of patient referrals. A review of Bleepa at Royal Oldham Hospital identified that Bleepa yielded a time saving of 1.7 days within the Respiratory specialty compared to previous referral methods (Beattie, 2020). Feedback Medical commissioned Unity Insights to conduct a real-world evaluation of the impact of Bleepa at a hospital site, across a trust, and at Integrated Care Board (ICB) level.
Quantitative referral data was analysed, which included data from Royal Oldham Hospital and Fairfield General Hospital within Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust (NCA). A 1.55-day reduction in clinical response time was identified across all specialties and hospitals when using Bleepa. This was calculated as the median response time of a clinical review message following the initial referral message, which was 0.55 days when using Bleepa. Staff survey analysis supported this improvement, where 76% of staff identified time savings when using Bleepa compared to previous methods. Further notable benefits included:
The net benefit (scenario 1) and net present value (NPV; scenarios 2 and 3) due to using Bleepa were identified in the following benefit streams:
Time saved whilst submitting referrals when using Bleepa, compared to previous referral methods.
Time saved due to efficient messaging when using Bleepa, compared to previous referral methods.
Reduced length of stay (LoS) due to using Bleepa, compared to previous referral methods.
All benefit streams were considered non-cash releasing benefits.
Recommendations included enhancing the usability of Bleepa, suggested by staff, and obtaining a suitable baseline comparator to allow further insights to be gathered.
Overall, use of Bleepa could lead to benefits for staff, patients, and the wider system. Should Bleepa be implemented in more specialties or sites, the Feedback Medical team should aim to standardise the training process and how the ‘accept’ function is used to create consistency in Bleepa usage across staff members. Future evaluations should aim to identify a suitable baseline comparator to increase the accuracy of conclusions made, alongside conducting a time-in-motion study to improve the quality of data capture. Once this has been established, it is likely that staff members in future sites are likely to experience improvements in staff communication and satisfaction levels, whilst inpatients could have a shorter length of stay, leading to NHS non-cash releasing savings for the trust or ICB.
The current evaluation has helped to identify the use case of Bleepa within NCA, with staff noting the positive impact of Bleepa on their worklife. The time savings identified within the evaluation also suggest that Bleepa can yield monetisable benefits for the wider system. The current evaluation has strengthened the business case for Bleepa, which can be used to justify scaleup of the application to further sites within the NHS.