April 17, 2017

In the News: Tracking Patients & Staff Means Fewer Cancelled Operations

Fitting patients with wireless bracelets and electronic badges to track their movements can cut on-the-day operation cancellations by 60 per cent, results from a pilot scheme suggest.

The TeleTracking system, which uses ideas developed for air traffic control computers, also tracks staff and equipment and is about to be installed in five hospitals after its success at Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust.

Bed management at many hospitals is still done on paper, and can involve staff wandering around with a clipboard looking for free beds. The new technology allows managers to see instantly which patients need a bed and which beds are free, as well as identifying the nearest porter to move a patient.

Royal Wolverhampton began using the system in 2014. Patients are now three times more likely to get a bed on a ward that matches their needs than they were before the system was put in place.

The number of patients on the wrong ward, such as patient with a chest infection being nursed on a surgical ward, reduced from 3,213 in 2014 to 1,089 last year. Studies show that such patients are likely to have a longer hospital stay, and some suggest that they are more likely to die.

A patient who is incorrectly being cared for on a surgical ward can cause surgery cancellations, because the bed cannot then be used for another patient. The number of operations cancelled on the day at Royal Wolverhampton went down from 386 in 2014 to 124 two years later.

NHS Improvement said that the trust had also reduced breaches of the four-hour A&E treatment target caused by a lack of beds by 35 per cent, despite a 10 per cent increase in people coming to the casualty department.Adam Sewell-Jones, a director at NHS Improvement, said: “A key part of [our] role is to support NHS trusts in developing new ways of working to improve patient care and meet rising demand. TeleTracking is one example of that ambition.

“This new technology enables staff to see real-time data on beds available within the hospital, enabling patients to be allocated to the most appropriate ward first time, ensuring they receive care from a medical and nursing team who are experts in their particular condition.

“If the NHS is to meet rising demand it must continue to innovate and develop new technologies that enhance and improve patient care.”

The next pilot trust sites will be The Royal Countess of Chester, University College London, Mid-Essex Hospital Services, Southend University Hospital and Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital.

“Staff at the Royal Wolverhampton are leading the way with exciting technology to manage patient flow within hospitals,” said Philip Dunne, health minister.

“This has the potential to improve the experience for patients significantly across the NHS, by cutting down on cancelled surgeries and ensuring patients are in the most appropriate ward.

“It’s also an important step forward to helping the NHS become more efficient — staff will no longer waste time manually counting beds, meaning they can spend more time caring for patients.”

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