How a UK hospital mobilized its board with Huddle for iPad

The South Tyneside NHS Foundation in the UK implemented iPads and Huddle for iPad to take its board of directors paperless.

During the summer of 2013, the South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust in the UK decided to move the publishing of their board documents from paper (60 documents of 200-300 pages each) to the Huddle collaboration platform and Huddle for iPad. No longer would admin staff have to waste time making copies for meetings. Board members also gained unprecedented access to the latest versions of their business cases, performance reports, and national guidelines. Recently, I got a chance to speak with Martin Alexander, IT director of the South Tyneside NHS Foundation about their experience moving their board members from paper to an iPad.

Lessons learned from implementing iPads and Huddle

"One of the lessons learned was we can actually do it," Alexander said. "We were reasonably skeptical that this could be done so quickly with the type of population we are dealing with. They aren't very technical people."

Alexander said some of bigger lessons they learned around helping people use the technology because not every user is capable when it comes to learning new technologies. It was important to the project that the new technology was accessible to even the non-technology enthusiast.

"We also didn't really know how much resources we were going to save at the outset," according to Alexander. The South Tyneside NHS Foundation saw the move to iPads and mobile collaboration with the Huddle iPad app as a low risk project. In the eyes of the organization, the costs were deemed low and they dived into the project without losing time contemplating the various cost options.

User training on the iPad and Huddle app

Such a fundamental change in technology often means end user training and support. While Huddle provided training support for the roll out, Alexander said end users were up and running in two hours on their iPads and the Huddle for iPad app. Alexander assured me this even included users who face challenges with IT training.

"One of the reasons why we selected Huddle as a solution was because of its simplicity," Alexander said. (The Huddle mobile app ranked high with me in usability and features so the timeline Alexander gives for training is realistic.)

Benefits of the move from paper to the iPad

Alexander and his department haven't conducted a formal user analysis on the benefits of moving from paper to Huddle and the iPad. However, they do have anecdotal reports from users about the benefits.

"In terms of preparing the board minutes, we saved at least a week of admin resources per month," Alexander relates. "So we know at the publishing side it's been massively beneficial."

Users are also giving much positive feedback about the introduction of the iPad. Alexander also told me users are starting to adopt their iPads for other business tasks including email. He is also seeing users extend the use of Huddle and the iPad into other meetings and predict the demand will only increase.

Most of the cost savings thus far for South Tyneside NHS Trust have been with administrative costs. Alexander relates, "We can save 12,000 GBP

on the implementation we have done. This number is for a small implementation of twenty or so people and scaling the implementation up leads to even further cost savings."

Productivity benefits

The productivity benefits of the move to Huddle for iPad include cutting down a lot on phone calls and improved communications between board members in terms of document management.

"The biggest change in all of this and moving to digital is to publish at speed," according to Alexander.

He also related to me there are changes in thinking and culture because when you publish in paper it can take days and weeks to prepare the papers making some people very reluctant to publish changes to those papers too close to meeting time. Then you end up in meetings having to explain the changes. Going Digital enables the board to make decisions based on the latest business information.

"That's why we started with the top end of our organization. It's about knowledge management as much it's about hard savings." Alexander says.

iPad security

"Security was important to use because we are dealing with health information, Alexander states. South Tyneside NHS Trust chose the iPad because of its good reputation for encryption and lower problems with malicious software. They also run Mobile Device Management (MDM) software to secure the iPads. Huddle as the cloud backend means the South Tyneside NHS Trust complies with UK regulations over storing information inside the country.

Alexander reinforces their choice of the iPad by saying, "Some people don't like this degree of control. We love it because it means less access to the bad guys."

He did mention some objections to the iPad in a business environment. Some people see the iPad as not designed to be managed centrally. Additionally, traditional IT departments who are use to being able to lock things down may also have objections to the iPad as a consumer device coming into their enterprise.

"Largely security at the end of the day there's a human being at the end of it and if they behave badly they can circumvent the security," Alexander advises.

"You are comparing the security with paper and paper resides in the back seat of a car in a briefcase and if you are lucky there's probably a lock on it but there probably won't be," says Alexander.

Future plans for the iPad and Huddle

"We are developing a collaboration strategy around all corporate documents and looks at how corporate governance will be supported by these kinds of devices," says Alexander.

Their future strategy also focuses on improved decision-making and knowledge management. Plans include opening up access to their electronic risk management and incident management systems to iPad users.

Alexander explains, "We are looking to get that information into the hands of the management team through these kinds of devices. So if there is a hospital alert, we want it to appear wirelessly on tablets throughout the organization."

He adds, "We are also looking to move iPads into the operational field to manage beds through our bed management system as well."

According to Alexander, these future moves will help South Tyneside NHS Foundation to start bringing together the management of the patient journey and the safety aspects and drive knowledge management improvements down into the operational areas.


The South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust move from paper to iPads and a mobile app shows how the uptake of mobile technologies has become less of an issue for more technology novices. It also points to a future where the iPad, mobile apps, and the cloud become decision-making tools for front line executive leadership.

By Will Kelly

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...