Hertfordshire Equipment Service

Given the scale of its operation, HES concluded that it needed a robust and powerful IT solution to enable the service to achieve the efficiency improvements it desired.

The Challenge

Hertfordshire Equipment Services (HES) is a Community Equipment Service which promotes independence and supports people with a long or short term disability or illness to live at home for as long as possible.

With around 80,000 pieces of equipment being delivered per annum, including electric profiling beds, hoists, and pressure care mattresses, by 38 HES technicians on the road performing around 100 drop-offs and swap-outs daily, HES is much in demand. It delivers to approximately 27,000 unique service users per annum, often delivering to the same user three or four times in the same year depending on the level of need.

Given the scale of its operation, HES concluded that it needed a robust and powerful IT solution to enable the service to achieve the efficiency improvements it desired.

The Solution

Following significant research into the market, HES adopted the ELMS2 system, a comprehensive software solution that supports the efficient management of Community Equipment Services, Wheelchair Services and other areas of NHS and Social Care supplies provision.

Easing what can be a difficult transition, Ethitec provided training to staff at HES prior to implementation that enabled continuity of service during the system switch. The training assisted the service to move forward with the system, and staff quickly became confident in exploring the system's functionality with handheld scanners and keeping records updated in real-time.

"The transition from the old system to ELMS2 went smoothly, predominantly due to the support provided by Ethitec and the testing of migrated data prior to going live," comments Barry Fearon, a Manager at HES.

The system's intuitive browser-based interface also proved a hit amongst staff at HES, says Barry: "It is a reflection of the user-friendliness of ELMS2 that we never receive calls from staff asking for further guidance with the system."

ELMS2 offered a modular and flexible solution that scaled to suit the specification of any service, and the system is constantly evolving to fit the needs of HES, explains Barry: "Ethitec has been very responsive in undertaking enhancements to assist in shaping the system to meet the way we work, rather than HES needing to change the way we work to fit in with the system.

"One such adaptation has been developed to address the routing inefficiencies faced by Road Technicians. In Hertfordshire, we have two levels of Technicians: one group undertaking adaptations, and one group undertaking drop off work. Ethitec recently added an additional search box in the 'Booking List', to filter 'drop off' work and 'adaptations' for scheduling and routing, and this additional function significantly improved our vehicle routing efficiency."

The Benefits

Since the introduction of ELMS2, HES has reported a number of efficiency improvements. Online orders are increasing month on month, with the first year seeing a 50% rise in online ordering. This has lessened the pressure on office staff and allowed resources to be allocated more efficiently.

Barry explains: "Since the introduction of barcode scanning, there has been a definite reduction in the number of calls we are receiving from frontline staff to check on the delivery progress and status of equipment. This is thanks to the real-time functionality of ELMS2; when equipment is delivered and scanned, the system is updated almost immediately, and automatically. Staff can then check ELMS2 to see whether the equipment has been delivered or is due for delivery, and / or they can choose to receive automated emails or SMS providing this information."

HES has identified further efficiencies it can make using ELMS2, in particular to improve ordering online rates of high cost equipment. "The issue we face here is that our authorisation process can be time consuming. Although the system supports online authorisation, we have yet to take full advantage of this and are considering a few options."

Despite this, the flexibility of the solution has enabled HES to begin the rollout of bed ordering online and assisted the service to make informed decisions when moving forward with clinical approval for high value items. Trials are running in various areas of the county to test models, and HES looks forward to using the full functionality of the system to support the loan out of high cost equipment in the future.

The historical data and trends provided by ELMS2's comprehensive reporting have helped HES highlight and address inefficiencies. "As part of our authorisation trial, activity reporting is fundamental in informing budget managers on the prescribing levels of their staff to ensure their consistency. The reports on ELMS2 are very comprehensive, and having the ability to export them to Microsoft Excel or present them in a PDF format is extremely helpful."

HES has also benefitted from Ethitec's twice-yearly User Group meetings, which enables networking with other ELMS2 users and acts as a forum for suggestions to develop the system.

The Future

HES is currently trialling a new aspect of ELMS2's Online Ordering Module which is specifically designed for smartphones and smaller tablets. The app enables referrers to order equipment in real time in the service user's place of residence, avoiding the need to return to an office before sending in the order.

Barry comments on the trial's success: "The feedback from referrers is extremely encouraging. This development will certainly meet the changing demands and expectations of Hertfordshire Social Care and Health colleagues who are requiring increased speed of equipment provision.

"This initiative also complements the Hertfordshire County Council ‘SmartWorker' programme, which enables staff to work peripatetically and reduce the need to print off documents.

"Overall, we're very happy with Ethitec and ELMS2," concludes Barry. "The system is robust, the support is excellent and Ethitec are responsive and flexible."

This case study was featured in Equipment Services Journal January 2016.