MHEALTH

Instant messaging now crucial for the NHS to coordinate during patient emergencies

After a range of emergencies such as the Grenfell Tower fire, Manchester Arena terrorist attack and Croydon Tram Crash where NHS workers used WhatsApp and other instant communication channels to deal with the situation, the NHS is introducing new guidelines on using instant messaging safely.

After a range of emergencies such as the Grenfell Tower fire, Manchester Arena terrorist attack and Croydon Tram Crash where NHS workers used WhatsApp and other instant communication channels to deal with the situation, the NHS is introducing new guidelines on using instant messaging safely.

As instant messaging is now a critical part of the NHS toolkit, instant messaging is approved, with guidance, as it can help to organise the response of the hospital during a major incident.  The new guidance hopes to help NHS workers to use judgement with instant messaging services so that data sharing and data privacy rules are followed. However, still ensuring it is safe to coordinate the care of patients during a crisis.

Some of the steps in the new guidance include;

  • Ensuring instant messaging tools meet the standard of encryption required for the NHS
  • Disabling messages from appearing on the lock screen to protect patient confidentiality
  • Not allowing anyone else to use their device
  • Deleting messages after the notes have been transcribed on the medical record.

You can read more about the guidance here.

In response to the guidance the Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care, Dr Simon Eccles said; “Helping people during a crisis like the Grenfell fire demands a quick response and instant messaging services can be a vital part of the NHS toolkit. Health service staff are always responsible about how they use patients’ personal details, and these new guidelines will help our doctors and nurses to make safe and effective use of technology under the most intense pressure.”

While Dr Johannsson who reviewed the guidance says; “These sensible guidelines will make the care of our patients safer through better communication by NHS staff.”

Developed by NHS England, NHS Digital, Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care the guidance does not endorse a particular instant message tool but it does help to improve communication between medics that keeps patients, and their data, safer.

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