New app for visiting nurses was co-designed by the nurses
August 30, 2021
Linda Keirl, a Windsor, Ontario-based Registered Practical Nurse (RPN), is living her best life. She’s getting the right information securely, in real-time, and delivering exceptional care and service to patients in their homes. (Photo above: Barb Gerryts, SE Health Registered Nurse)
Her longtime employer, SE Health, a not-for-profit social enterprise and one of Canada’s largest home-care organizations, is helping her to do that.
The organization recently launched a new app and digital platform, MySE Life, that is making it easier for Keirl and her colleagues to keep doing what they love: bringing hope and happiness while working with purpose and helping each client to realize their most meaningful goals for health and well-being.
“It’s my SE life on my mobile phone and it’s as simple as it sounds,” said Keirl, who claims she is “far from tech savvy” and has been nursing for almost five decades.
She has called SE Health home for close to 20 of those years – after she was inspired by the organization’s “wonderful palliative care delivery that is client and family focused” and wanted to give that same experience to her clients.
“This amazing app has my entire client caseload and their information, including addresses, medical and visit history, and treatment plans, all in one place – and it’s very user-friendly,” said Keirl. “As a front-line RPN, I’m thrilled to be part of a co-design team that’s allowing us to reimagine client-centered care in new and innovative ways to promote the continuity of care for our clients and families.”
While other apps and programs for visiting nurses may contain patient information in digital form, MySE Life differs in that it pulls real-time information from a variety of databases, including SE Health’s own patient records and the public health system, such as Ontario’s community health system.
Planning for the application began last year, during the first wave of the pandemic. Microsoft Teams enabled several SE Health groups, including digital transformation and operations professionals, as well as nurses, to form one team and to explore and understand how nurses are delivering care.
They discussed the tools they have and those they didn’t have but needed. They also outlined how care could be enhanced for clients and nurses at the same time – for example, by cutting down the number of emails nurses receive and by maximizing the use of new and leading-edge digital tools and practices.
Before the introduction of the application, nurses received their caseload information weekly by email. It was a lengthy PDF document containing their schedules and numerous important details about their clients.
The information was auto-generated and it wasn’t always up to date in the ways it needed to be. It would also take nurses many hours to read. Getting up-to-date information, in a format that was easier to read and understand, was a priority.
This was another important feature delivered by MySE Life.
“Empowering our nurses in this exercise was important for two reasons: engaging our people and showing our confidence in them, and ensuring the success of the application itself,” said Nancy Lefebre, SE Health’s chief clinical executive and senior vice president Knowledge and Practice.
“It also supports our new model of care at SE Health that takes us back to our foundations of caring where nurses are autonomous leaders and are supported by their incredible teams in a primary nursing model.”
She added that the pandemic continues to show us that home is the safest and best place to be and that people want to live and die at home. SE Health is committed to listening to its employees and giving them the tools they need.
“The co-design of this application makes this endeavour exceptional in every way,” said Arslan Idrees, chief digital transformation officer at SE Health. “From start to finish, we are following the design principle ‘for nurses, by nurses,’ right down to the descriptions and names.
“Utilizing new, cutting-edge UX [user experience], we are connecting the legacy infrastructure with the new 21st century experience, putting the legacy technology behind the curtain to allow SE Health to lead in the digital world. Even better, we are giving the nurses an ‘Uber-like’ experience without changing the back-end ecosystem and we’ve done this at lightning speed.”
Typically, as Idrees continued, an organization would “purchase software and adjust people and processes to fit a solution.”
But in this case, the end users (nurses) are “driving the vision of the application. And clinical and technical staff are working together in an agile manner to reimagine the future with incremental releases, allowing the application to improve their daily lives.
“The co-design opportunity is like magic,” added Barb Gerryts, SE Health Registered Nurse who delivers care in the Niagara region and is part of the co-design team. “During our meetings with the development team, we put together ‘wish’ lists. We kept the suggestions coming and the development team kept saying “yes!”
“We even had input into the font design and size,” she added. “As a small group of nurses, we come to the table with the same profession but with different points of view and geographical locations. One of our goals was to leverage that location piece and create an app that works well in all communities.
“We also quickly saw the importance of combining our daily service plan with our caseload plan and getting the information in one place on nurses’ phones so it is easy for us to navigate.”
Before the app, nurses would have to go to a different app or location to find a family physician’s telephone number, to read the history of their client, to look for details about the client’s last visit or find the client’s address. Now, that’s all changed.
“It’s in real-time,” exclaimed Gerryts with excitement. “If I make a change to my day, it’s live and the updates have been made. It used to take one or two hours for the information to show up previously. It’s already helping us to work smarter. The information has been in so many places but the app brings it all together.”
“It’s making my life easier and I’m safer on the road as a result. I am also feeling more involved in my day-to-day tasks,” said Allison Hanchett, SE Health registered nurse in North Simcoe-Muskoka and part of the co-design team.
“This feeling enhances care for our clients because we know that we can positively make changes and then see the changes that are being made. I feel so lucky to have been chosen as part of this group to offer input and to make a difference. The app is modernizing home and community care and it’s liberating to make these changes during challenging times when we couldn’t meet in person. It makes me feel like anything’s possible.”
Idrees noted that the MySE Life provides the information that nurses need on-demand, and that everything has been designed for the small screen – the smartphone. “Nurses are seeing everything scaled to their phones, always with the most relevant information, such as the client code, showing first. It also works in offline mode,” he said.
Now that the application is up and running – available to all SE Health nurses since the end of July – Idrees says “by decoupling the legacy infrastructure from the front end, it’s allowing us to realize our goal faster, without losing continuity. This ‘fit-for-purpose’ approach will enable us to continue innovating while the infrastructure catches up, enhancing care for our clients at every turn.”
For Keirl and her colleagues, they are already providing feedback on the second iteration of the application and are thrilled with the possibility of SE Health expanding this type of initiative to include other staff, in the areas of Personal Support Care and Rehabilitation, in the future.
“I’m so proud to work for an organization that’s listening to its people and building trust with us every chance they have,” said Keirl. “As nurses, we’ve been involved from the ground up and SE Health wants us to feel confident and comfortable with the app; they are supporting teams through training and at every stage of implementation. This is truly my SE life and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Sarah Quadri is Director, Corporate Communications, at SE Health.