In a recent interview with Ambulance UK, Bradley Woods, Operations Manager at Patient Transport UK Ltd, tells how going digital has transformed his business.
Since subscribing to Apex’s Patient Transport Software, they haven't looked back.
An evolution of systems
With over 15 years’ experience in the industry, Bradley has witnessed a huge evolution in how jobs are organised: from the days when a dispatched ambulance and crew was identically fitted and trained, right up to the present when the precise requirements of any job are managed at the touch of a button and the use of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). “Jobs used to be phoned through and written down,” Bradley explains. “We had ledgers, folders and paperwork everywhere, plus you kept a few things in your head. Then we moved to spreadsheets. Now with Apex PTS, things have jumped forward again. Everything is done within the one system, managed and linked to PDAs.”
Apex and CQC audit
Operations Managers and their teams are skilled at juggling many factors. So what prompted the move to step up a gear? For Patient Transport UK it was an increase in workflow. “We needed a way to streamline everything so there weren’t so many stages between booking and dispatch,” says Bradley. “The requirements of the CQC were also instrumental.”
Today Apex PTS enables him to have “all the ducks in a row” and the ability to pinpoint relevant information, current or historic, which is vital for an audit perspective. “As our governing body, the CQC needed essential information,” Bradley explains. “We had to time stamp and audit everything that happens, such as the use of restraint in our mental health work. We can document all of that with Apex, along with vehicle locations, speed, journey information and audit review.”
During their most recent audit, Patient Transport UK Ltd achieved a CQC rating of good. The CQC overviewed the entire system and auditing processes. Bradley was able to show evidence such as the secure elements of booking, and features such as Fleet Management and Vehicle Checks. “All the things Apex were able to provide,” he says, “we were able to demonstrate its use at the time.”
It’s not just transport providers that benefit from smooth operations; Bradley believes that clients and customers also reap rewards. They can book through the system directly into their system and receive a reference number – which increases clarity when vulnerable people are being dropped off and picked up. By logging into their booking portals they can also monitor the exact point of a journey. Bradley believes the process is overall a lot smoother, and easier for the crews. “They turn up with all the information already on their screen ready to go, which eliminates any confusion on the site -especially if there are three or four bookings on the same site,” he says. “They can still pick up the phone if they need to talk to us. But now it is it is all there in black and white, clear as day.”
Getting on with work
With almost 60 road staff and a growing list of bigger customers, a positive impact is in the organisation of crews to cover patients with a wide range of needs. In addition to work with hospitals (NHS and private) and mental health secure transport, Patient Transport UK offers renal and event management including football matches and big corporate event medical cover. “The software helps manage the journeys,” Bradley says. “We can colour code what type of journey is allocated to which vehicle, and which crew will be needed for ‘x’ amount of time. Our control team is excellent, but for someone new, the learning curve won’t be as steep.”
Big changes can cause hiccups, but customers are now making bookings on the booking portal and everyone at Patient Transport UK Ltd is fully ‘fluent’ in how to use a PDA. “It is absolutely the norm,” Bradley explains. “Some were a bit ‘technophobic’ at first, but people would now be saying they couldn’t work without their PDA. It’s got to the stage that it is a requirement.”
Fleet Manager and Tracking
Apex Fleet Manager allows Patient Transport UK Ltd to get an overview of their vehicles every single day. This gives additional reassurance to the mandatory vehicle checks a crew must do before they start their shift and receive work. “We know that every single day, every vehicle in service has been checked,” Bradley says. “Any time a defect is highlighted, I get sent a report so I can deal with that straightaway. Anything not labelled as a defect, that hasn’t been picked up, we can also then identify why it wasn’t picked up through the previous vehicle checks.”
Fleet Manager keeps on top of MOT and licence reminders. Whilst this is contracted to a garage to cover, reminders are still sent through the system, a fact that Bradley appreciates: “It’s an extra layer of protections, to make sure that we don’t miss anything. So yes, that’s definitely a good feature.”
Tracking of vehicles is easy with Apex PTS and PDAs. Bradley does not feel the need to be ‘glued’ to this function, but it gives him confidence that if an investigation was necessary, a clear and accurate picture of exact time stamps and journey references would be available. “If we ever have to look retrospectively,” he says, “we can see what has been done, why it has been done, and where it happened.”
Surprise benefits – and a favourite feature
Apex PTS Software is packed with features, but there are gems that make a difference to an Operations Manager. For Bradley, the ability for crews to report delays on site has been an unexpected benefit. “On top of that,” he adds, “the system allows me to narrow down the fields of the reports. Being able to essentially create a custom report for a customer means we are able to tailor these reports quite easily and meet their specific needs. For me personally, as the one who has to deal with reports, that’s a nice surprise and helpful!”
Apex PTS Software is a comprehensive package, so a busy company might need a while to fully explore what it can do. Bradley has plans to investigate the training packs and staff management features: “Staff files and adding documents, along with disciplinary information would be the next step for us.”
But is there something in the Apex PTS Software that Patient Transport UK Ltd definitely wouldn’t want to be without today? For Bradley it’s definitely the PDAs. “As long as these guys have their devices, we can still allocate their journeys. At the very base level, that point when a journey comes in and it is allocated to a crew, that is the essential bit. But we’ll take all that’s in the software,” he adds, “as it’s there!”
In a crowded market, how does a Patient Transportation company find the best PTS software?
Every Operations Manager wants the best products for the job. But how do you choose, and is Patient Transport UK satisfied with the results of their software journey? Bradley felt that his previous software was expensive and didn’t do enough. It wasn’t until he googled to check if there was something else that he discovered Apex – and when he did, he saw that they could potentially influence some of the things in the system. “It took us a long time to push the button on Apex,” Bradley admits, “because we still wanted things exactly right before we even knew what we wanted. So from that point of view it was really great working with Apex, and we are very happy at the moment.”