Hospital merger brings engagement and accessibility to all through SPARK

13 July 2023

Finn Foley, guest writer

Finn Foley, guest writer

The University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) was formed on the 1 April 2020 after the merger of two trusts – University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Area Health NHS. It is a specialist teaching trust running nine hospitals across the campus, which includes research facilities and is seen as a beacon for outstanding education, research and innovation.

Delivering a unified patient engagement system

Upon the completion of the merger, several goals were created; to deliver a unified patient engagement system, and to ensure that this was done quickly and efficiently, as well as providing responsive and far-reaching WiFi.

Other goals include allowing the trust to offer entertainment, education, and engagement opportunities to staff, patients and visitors and to bring solutions that can grow with time, respond to changing needs and goals and work with evidential data.

Finally, the trust wanted to ensure that staff, patients, and visitors are supported by around the clock customer service and maintenance teams. Overall, the priority for the trust is a unified patient experience solution to prioritise engagement and growth. This comes in the form of WiFi Spark, which was implemented in 2021.

A staggered unification strategy

With Bristol’s existing WiFi contract abruptly ending, and the requirement to meet the goals set of engagement (up to date, responsive and able to handle lots of patients, staff, visitors, and many other stakeholders each day), a solution was needed quickly.

WiFi SPARK established a leased line with the trust that allowed for rapid implementation of high-quality WiFi provision, while work began to connect the Weston Super Mare site over 23 miles away to ensure a unified connection with new and improved WiFi provision. Time pressures meant that the entire unification strategy has had to be staggered, although the implementation has been efficient and trustworthy.

It has been successful; with over 2,000 access points across the 2 sites, users are guaranteed a reliable connection no matter their location. The SPARK WiFi solution also provides an NHS branded portal upon connection to the network to provide reliable content filtering, user analytics and the free engagement platform SPARK Media, which is accessible to anyone connected to the WiFi and provides a variety of links on a simple and easy to navigate dashboard. The links consist of NHS health advice, trust information, dementia aids and several hospital radio links to act as a lifeline to the hospital population.

Any-device accessible

The SPARK Media solution also includes access to Freeview television, digital magazines and newspapers and a hospital radio free of charge and with constant support, provided by SPARK’s UK based service desk. This package can be accessed from any device that can connect to WiFi so is truly accessible and patients can feel comfortable using their own devices to use the network at their leisure.

Furthermore, for those who do not have their own personal device, the trust has purchased several tablets for patients to use during their stay, which can easily be wiped of data and reused. These tablets can be used to video call loved ones free of charge and can be jointly used for video consultations across the trust. Therefore, truly anybody can be connected while they are there.

The multimedia platform has allowed users to easily listen to three radio stations that run across the trust and has helped raise awareness of the trust’s charity through banner advertisements and displaying information about upcoming events and activities. Furthermore, the use of analytics allows the trust to determine what services are used the most and how to tailor the service to best meet their needs. There is consideration of expanding the number of tablets available to give to patients without access to meet demand and ensure everyone is connected and engagement is reached everywhere.

Currently the trust has deployed 30 tablets with SPARK Unite, which allow access to all regular features and allow the tablets to be borrowed and reused by patients as they come and go. This system is managed by the trust charities, volunteers, and on-site helpers.

Several new additions are possibilities for the future, including an electronic meal ordering system, and survey modules. Both could be added to the SPARK Media platform to provide an easier and better system for feedback and meals.