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Revolutionising patient safety

Posted onPosted on 19th May
Revolutionising patient safety

Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded £191,000 by NHS England’s Nursing Technology Fund to support the rollout of an award-winning hi-tech system that will revolutionise patient safety.

The trust is the first in the East Midlands to introduce VitalPAC ­— an innovative software system that enables nurses to record clinical data on handheld iPod devices at patients’ bedside — that can be instantly analysed.

The fund was set up by the Department of Health to allow nursing services providers to invest in new technology-enabled solutions that deliver safer, more effective and efficient care.

VitalPAC has already been deployed on five adult inpatient wards at King’s Mill Hospital. The new system will be used from the patient’s admission to hospital and throughout their stay, replacing the traditional paper observations chart at the end of each bed.

Currently nurses write down patient observations, including blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and breathing rate; allocating a point score for each before calculating an overall total Early Warning Score.

When a high Early Warning Score is calculated from a patient’s observations and vital signs, the appropriate doctor is immediately alerted on their personal handheld mobile device.

Dr Lisa Milligan, consultant anaesthetist at the trust, said: “Identifying high risk and deteriorating patients at the earliest opportunity ensures clinical staff can take the necessary action immediately to save lives.

“VitalPAC virtually eliminates the possibility of human error in both calculating scores and making a judgement call about a patient’s condition. Studies have shown that the error rate in calculations is reduced three-fold thanks to the use of VitalPAC.

“The fund has enabled the VitalPAC project team to purchase essential items, such as iPads and charging units, and has helped to fund some of the staff involved in rollout of the project.”

The system prompts nursing staff when observations are due, ensuring observations are completed accurately and on time. It also tailors the frequency of observations to a patient’s clinical condition, ensuring that the sickest patient’s observations are carried out more frequently and in accordance with the Trust’s observations policy.

The trust said research suggested it is 40% faster for nurses to record a complete set of observations and calculate the score using the new automated system, compared to using pen and paper method.

Lorraine Brooks, Sister on Ward 51, said: “VitalPAC allows us to monitor patients quickly and efficiently. Inputting patient observations directly onto the device automatically calculates an Early Warning Score that identifies those patients who are deteriorating. We can then act on this information in a much quicker way.

“At first some of our staff were dubious about the new system. However, they have come to love it and the general consensus on the ward is that it is better for staff and patients.”

Authorised clinical staff can view the observation charts and clinical data for all their patients from any tablet or PC on the ward, or on any tablet or desktop computer with access to the hospital network.

Accessing and analysing data from many of the trust’s other systems, including pathology, microbiology and radiology, the new software gives a clear and complete picture of a patient’s current condition.

Pictured is Beverley Boyle, healthcare assistant, checking a patient’s observations.