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Transformation at St. George’s University Hospitals

Clinicians at St. George’s University Hospitals introduced Siilo as a secure, healthcare-specific alternative to WhatsApp with spectacular results.

NHS Foundation Trust

St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest hospital and community health service providers in the UK. It employs over 9000 members of staff and is one of the country’s largest teaching hospitals, offering specialist care for the most complex injuries and illnesses. Located in Tooting, St. George’s serves a population of 1.3 million people across the wider region of South West Long.

Delivering a high standard of care relies on secure and effective frontline communication

Healthcare professionals know about the privacy risks associated with commercial messengers, but many continue to use them. It’s not that they don’t care about privacy. Whipping out our smartphones to take a photo or send a message is just a natural impulse nowadays. We take advantage of their convenience everywhere, and healthcare professionals aren’t an exception.

This isn’t unusual. In fact, the use of smartphones and commercial messengers in the healthcare sector is on the rise. According to an internal study done by the Trauma and Orthopaedics department at St. George’s University Hospitals, over 87% of healthcare professionals use smartphones to discuss patient cases at work. 56% of these professionals couldn’t be sure whether or not that information was secure!

Keen to address this problem, clinicians at the Orthopaedics department took it upon themselves to find a solution.

Darren Lui
We wanted to find a sophisticated app which worked seamlessly as a messenger. Fortunately, we came across Siilo: it was a no-brainer.”
Darren Lui, Spinal and Orthopaedic Surgeon at St. George’s University Hospitals

A healthcare-specific solution

I wanted to find a solution that delivered the balance between convenience, practicality and compliance,’ explains Darren Lui, a Spinal and Orthopaedic Surgeon, and someone closely involved in the selection and implementation process of the department’s new messaging solution.

As a level 1 trauma centre, the department treats a large number of patients and communication is essential to ensure everything runs smoothly – we were keen not to disrupt this. We wanted to find a sophisticated app which worked seamlessly as a messenger. Fortunately, we came across Siilo: it was a no-brainer.’

Furthermore, Mr. Lui says one of the key benefits of Siilo was that, unlike many other clinical messaging apps, the app developers were accessible and happy to engage in dialogue.

Being able to contact the app developers with any concerns or issues was really useful,’ he admits. Joost (a former surgeon and the co-founder of Siilo) is immediately listed as one of your contacts. I found him and his team incredibly helpful. He gave us the time of day, he answered all of our questions and he’s actually made changes along the way to make our experience better.’

Improving patient care with Siilo Messenger

First and foremost, Siilo Messenger ensures that the Orthopaedic department is operating within the realms of the law and in line with the latest NHS information governance regulations.

Security is really important,’ says Darren Lui. As an Orthopaedic surgeon, we take a lot of photographs and knowing that they are secure within Siilo is a big winner.’

Before Siilo was introduced to the department, Mr. Lui and his colleagues were forced to communicate using imprecise language and/​or doctored images to avoid breaching patient confidentiality. Now, thanks to Siilo, staff members can communicate without worries.

It’s so liberating,’ says Mr. Lui. I’m able to discuss patient cases in confidence. So – instead of having to say that guy over there with the broken leg’ – I can say John Smith who date of birth is X, Y, and Z. It’s, therefore, safer to use Siilo, too: there is no confusion because I can use real names and I can examine photographs that show surgical procedures without any distortion.’

Jonathan Ogidi, a Physician Associate at the hospital, describes a Siilo use case: I remember one shift, we went to review a trauma patient with degloving injuries. Siilo meant that we could act quickly and send images to the Plastics Consultant, who provided an immediate prognosis and offered his clinical advice. This led to a quick decision — the patient was taken into theatre that night.’

Mr. Lui points out that taking photos with Siilo is more secure and more efficient than the traditional use of a digital camera: The camera isn’t password protected and anyone can take the SD card,’ he says. It’s not encrypted, it’s never charged and there’s never a cable to connect it. Not to mention, you can take better quality photographs on your mobile phone.

In contrast, Siilo allows you to edit photographs: I can blur somebody’s face, I can put an arrow pointing to an area of interest – it has so many extra features. You simply can’t do these things with a normal digital camera on the fly.’

Darren Lui
You can’t get away from the fact that photography has to be used through something like Siilo. There is simply no comparison for compliance, GDPR and patient safety.”
Darren Lui, Spinal and Orthopaedic Surgeon at St. George’s University Hospitals

Immediate access to your trusted colleagues

Siilo’s Address Book feature gives users access to thousands of other healthcare professionals who have registered and verified their profiles. With other commercial messenger services, you often need someone’s contact information to start any direct communication. With Siilo, you can reach out to any registered doctor – anywhere in the world – as long as they are verified.

To highlight the benefits of this feature, Mr. Lui explains how the app could be used in Major Trauma (MTC) to create groups across specialty and between different hospitals:

Siilo has great potential to control and manage major incidents. We’ve seen the benefits of WhatsApp in these situations, but with Siilo the benefits are even greater – it’s highly intuitive, familiar and it’s ready to use.

In a major emergency situation, for example, you could quickly form groups of appropriate medical professionals inside a hospital or between hospitals, because institutional email addresses pre-verified by Siilo can help create an automatic address book without having an individual’s phone number.’

Switching off

For Mr. Lui and his colleagues, another key function of the Siilo Messenger app is the separation it provides between personal and professional life.

People realise they can get ahold of you very quickly and very easily. But people need time away from work – especially in this profession – and the nice thing about Siilo is that you can say no, I’m not looking at Siilo for the next eight hours.”’

Making the switch

For the Orthopaedics department, there’s no question as to why Siilo’s got over active 150,000 users, a number that is growing by the day. 

Mr. Ogidi concludes that he couldn’t imagine life without it. It would be going back to a life with lots of bleeps interrupting my workflow, and me running around trying to find senior colleagues just to show patient images to them.

NHS organisations shouldn’t think twice about it. Go for it. It will improve the efficiency of your team and ultimately benefit patients.’

Jonathan Ogidi
Siilo has transformed the way my team communicates, and I would hope to see this extended into other departments and hospitals across the UK.”
Jonathan Ogidi, Physician Associate at St. George’s University Hospitals