May 08, 2017

In the News: Technology Trial Reveals Benefits for Nursing Staff and Patients

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust has pioneered the use of real-time data, introducing electronic badges and bracelets similar to “Fitbit” devices to track staff, patients, beds and other equipment.

As a result, the trust told Nursing Times it had seen significant improvements in bed management since introducing the technology, leading to fewer cancelled operations and improved performance on A&E waiting times.

The technology had also helped free up nurses to concentrate on patient care and was a useful source of information when dealing with complaints and investigating serious incidents, according to the trust’s associate chief nurse Rose Baker.

However, she admitted managers initially had to convince staff of the merits of what could be perceived as a “Big Brother” style surveillance system.

Under the system, all 4,000 staff who have direct contact with patients – including nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and porters – wear electronic badges, while all patients have electronic bracelets, allowing everyone’s location and movements to be tracked.

Key equipment such as infusion pumps, bladder scanners and ECG machines are also tagged so staff know exactly where to find them at any time.

The system was developed in the US for use in hospitals where everyone has an individual room. To replicate this at Wolverhampton, beds in bays or wards are now demarcated by infrared “virtual walls”.

Ms Baker said the technology had made a big difference including “taking some of that stress and strain away” from nurses, releasing them to concentrate on core nursing tasks.

“It has taken a lot of the duplication and admin away,” she told Nursing Times. “Before nurses were on the phone trying to find stuff, whereas now using the system we can track patients, staff or bits of kit and it is much easier.

“It used to take up to 60 minutes to find a bladder scanner, whereas now we can look on our system and within seconds bring up every bladder scanner in the organisation,” she said.

Working in a similar way to an air traffic control system, the technology means staff can see instantly which patients need a bed, which beds are free and those that need to be cleaned – leading to improved bed management and patient flow.

Royal Wolverhampton patients are now three times more likely to be directed to an appropriate bed, according to data published by NHS Improvement, which is overseeing a pilot that will see the technology rolled out to five more trusts.

It has helped reduce the number of operations cancelled due to lack of beds by 60%. The technology has also helped the trust reduce breaches of the four-hour accident and emergency target caused by lack of beds.

Previously, all discharge and transfer bed cleans were done by nursing teams – equating to an estimated 17 hours in total per day spent cleaning beds instead of caring for patients.

The trust now has a dedicated bed cleaning team who are automatically alerted to which beds need their attention via the TeleTracking system.

“When patients are discharged their wristband goes into a drop-box. On screen that bed will automatically turn brown, so the bed management team know it is empty but dirty,” explained Ms Baker.

Jo Stephenson, Reporter
May 8, 2017, Nursing Times

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