iPads and other tablets could replace NHS written patient monitoring charts

Handwritten medical observation charts could become a thing of the past in UK hospitals with the development of an iPad-based patient monitoring system.

Developed in Oxford hospitals, the iPad-based early-warning system, developed with EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) funding, is one of the projects funded by the £260 million "Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards" NHS Technology Fund to improve patient safety.

The £1.1 million Oxford funding will allow the team of biomedical engineers and clinicians from the University of Oxford and the Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Trust to roll out the system across all adult wards in the trust’s acute hospitals.

The new approach uses the tablet technology both to record and to evaluate patients’ vital signs. It will help alert medical staff to patient deterioration on the wards more reliably.

Just as now, nurses will regularly take readings of a patient’s vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. But instead of writing the information on an observation chart, they will input it into an iPad or other computer tablet.

An Early Warning Score will then be calculated automatically and displayed instantly. The nurse will use this score to help decide whether medical intervention is needed.

Lionel Tarassenko, professor of electrical engineering, who leads the project, said: “The new system will help nurses, who work in busy, high-pressure environments, care for patients more efficiently and effectively.”

The system is currently being rolled out across three wards and then, with the help of the Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards funding, across the whole of the Oxford University Hospitals Trust next year.

Tarassenko said: “We see the new system as a major step towards the ‘digital hospital’ in which all sources of patient information are interlinked and all healthcare staff are interconnected. This can only have a positive impact on patient safety.”

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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