A review and analysis conducted by Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN) shows that a communication tool created by NHS doctors could potentially save the NHS millions.

The KSS AHSN Insights team conducted an in-depth evaluation to assess the impact of Forward, a smartphone app which helps NHS workers exchange patient information, make clinical decisions and manage their workload.

The study found that an acute Trust adopting Forward could save just under £1m (£922k [1]) from in-year cash and non-cash savings, rising to £44 million should the application be rolled out across all acute Trusts nationally.

The vast majority of savings are attributed to time savings for the workforce (non-cash savings). Less than 2% of overall savings were a result of avoiding potential fines from disciplinary action requirements (non-cash savings) and pager savings (cash-savings).

Richard Lee-Wright, Director of Insights at KSS AHSN, said:

“New technological approaches have a key role to play in the future of health and social care, and as our research has shown, Forward can offer real benefits to the NHS.

“Our health economic models are based on first order health economic processes, while offering findings that can be easily applied to real-world settings. This approach provides healthcare decision makers with the credible evidence they need and supports the wider adoption of value-based innovation.”

Commenting on the research Dr Barney Gilbert, co-founder of Forward, said:

“It’s incredible to think that this technology, born out of our first-hand frustration as doctors, is helping Trusts, staff and patients right across the country.

“The evaluation work conducted by KSS AHSN was really impressive – professional, agile and thoughtful from start to finish. We look forward to seeing the report we have co-produced driving transformation towards streamlined communication in the NHS.” 

Notes for editors

About the study

As with any health economic evaluation, limitations were noted including the sparse availability of data regarding information on data breaches as well as small sample sizes for the data collected. The variability across sites in terms of socket availability, connectivity issues and cultural perception of using one’s smartphone, was also raised. 

The report highlighted the need to expand data collection to make the health economic model more robust whilst also looking at a broader variety of types of time recordings, roles and settings.

Furthermore, the KSS AHSN Insights team encouraged Forward to assess sites for implementation carefully to ensure the technology is fit for purpose and explore ways of tailoring features of the application to user groups.

About Forward

Forward was founded by junior doctors who wanted to create an alternative to the use of pagers and landlines on hospital wards, replacing them with a safe, bespoke app for clinical staff. 

The Forward app is currently used by over 100 NHS hospitals and Care Commissioning Groups and has processed several million clinical messages to date.[2] 

1- £922K specifically at Leeds Teaching Hospital when looking at specific clinical staff groups

2 – Based on monthly messages processed and App store ranking.