Nurse and doctor looking at tablet in hallway

    October 3, 2019

    Intelligent mobile solution will reduce stress for on-duty hospital doctors


    The Danish Innovationsfonden (the Innovation Fund) has just invested EUR 2.7 million in a new research project that aims to streamline workflows, ease workloads and reduce stress among busy hospital doctors via an intelligent call system.

    Burnout as a result of chronic stress is a well-documented problem among doctors in Denmark and the rest of the world. Hospital doctors are under considerable pressure while they are on duty, where they are often responsible for multiple patients in different departments and wards. New tasks and information are usually communicated via the duty phone that the doctors carry, and most people who have tried to be admitted to hospital are familiar with the situation where an important conversation with the doctor is interrupted by a duty phone ringing away in the doctor’s pocket.

    But a new research project now aims to do away with all this via development of an intelligent mobile-phone-based IT solution that will improve and streamline working conditions for hospital doctors – and thus improve the overall experience for patients.

    The project has just received an investment of EUR 2.7 million from the Danish Innovationsfonden (the Innovation Fund).

    Fewer phone calls and better overview

    The company behind this project is Danish software company Systematic, which has entered into a collaborative effort involving the University of Aarhus and the university hospitals in Aarhus and Aalborg, with the aim of developing a mobile- phone-based IT solution that can make doctors’ work easier, in several ways.

    The objective is to reduce the volume of telephone calls, provide hospital doctors with faster access to necessary data from patient records and a better overview of what’s important in the volume of data, and at the same time serve as a prioritisation tool that gives medical staff greater influence on how best to organise their particular tasks.

    Mikkel Harbo, who is the director of business and product development at Systematic, explains the situation – and the solution – as follows:

    - At the moment, when a hospitalised patient needs to be seen by the doctor during the night, a nurse summons the doctor who is on call. This doctor may – for example – be in the middle of examining another patient who has just arrived at A&E. In a situation like this, it’s difficult to take in the new information and to prioritise the new task in relation to all the other tasks lined up waiting. To help deal with all this, we intend to replace the more traditional “duty phone” setup with a smartphone that receives the tasks on digital format. The nurse requesting assistance from the doctor uses this to indicate the importance of the task, and at the same time the doctor receives an extract of relevant data from the hospital’s medical records for the patient. This means the doctor quickly gets an overview of what the task will probably involve, and it’s then easier to prioritise different tasks or hand them over to a colleague, if appropriate.

    Efficient use of huge amounts of data

    Replacing the “duty phone” setup for doctors with an intelligent call system means the doctor can then concentrate on the individual patients when he or she is with them, and has the necessary information right at hand when moving on to the next patient. At the same time, there will be fewer phone calls back and forth because the process is digitised, with the added advantage that hospital doctors are better informed when they meet the patients.

    A huge amount of data is now normally available to healthcare professionals, from clinical information systems well as other digital systems. This data may be a blessing in many contexts, but on night duty there is rarely time to sit for hours in front of a computer. The doctor therefore needs a clear presentation of the data relevant to the patient’s situation – here and now. That is exactly the challenge that Professor Ira Assent and her colleagues at the Department of Computer Science at Aarhus University are finding a way to tackle.

    - We build a knowledge graph that ensures that relevant data about the patient is extracted from the various systems and presented in a visually transparent way on the device the doctor is using. The ensures the doctor a useful overview of the information he or she needs for the task, and she can therefore quickly prepare for meeting the patient, explains Professor Assent.

    Solution with global potential

    Development of the first prototype of the new mobile-phone-based IT solution is expected to be completed and ready for testing at Aarhus University Hospital and Aalborg University Hospital in six months, with Jørn Munkhof Møller, senior consultant at Aalborg University Hospital looking forward to trying out the solution – initially in the A&E department.

    - We know that people become less empathetic the more pressure they are under. That’s why stress and burnout are particularly problematic in the healthcare sector, where patients need to encounter well-prepared professional staff to undertake the necessary care with energy and empathy. We expect this solution to help with this, explains Jørn Munkhof Møller, senior consultant at Aalborg University Hospital.

    At Aarhus University Hospital, medical director Jørgen Schøler Kristensen sees the benefits extending beyond doctors and patients.

    - There is no doubt that this project has great potential. We expect it will make a significant difference for hospital staff and patients – but also for the community in general if we can reduce chronic stress for our doctors and introduce more effective hospital workflows, he states.

    Mikkel Harbo from Systematic expects the solution to be adapted to the needs of hospitals in other parts of the world, in the longer term. The need for information overviews and efficiency is as relevant elsewhere as in Denmark, and the problem of burnt-out physicians has been documented in multiple studies conducted in the EU as well as the US.

    The project will extend over a three-year period from autumn 2019 to autumn 2022. Initial testing at the hospitals is expected to begin as early as spring 2020.

    Facts about the Innovation Fund investment:

    • Programme name: Grand Solutions
    • Official title: Hospital@Night
    • Investment: EUR 2.7 million
    • Project duration: 2019-2022