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East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

East Kent Hospitals to introduce patient monitoring system

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has become the latest to invest in a new deteriorating patient monitoring system.

Its hospitals will be the first in Kent to use the VitalPAC system, according to the foundation trust. Installation will start over the next few months with the aim of having it up and running throughout the trust by next autumn.

The system will enable nurses to record patients’ vital signs electronically into handheld computers at the bedside.

VitalPAC automatically analyses this information, along with data such as blood test results stored in other hospital databases, and identifies priority patients using an early warning score. An urgent alert is given if the score reveals the patient to be in need of immediate medical attention.

Julie Pearce, chief nurse and director of quality and operations, said: “This system will ensure we identify deteriorating patients quickly throughout the hospital. It is a very user friendly system and is well-liked by staff in hospitals where it is already in use.”

According to the trust, studies have shown that with VitalPAC there are three times fewer errors in patient risk assessment than with traditional pen and paper methods.

However, the adoption of, and reliance on, monitoring systems for identifying deteriorating patients has been questioned in recent years.

A survey by Nursing Times in January 2011 found more than one in five nurses said they lacked confidence in their colleagues’ ability to spot a deteriorating patient.

While lack of staffing was cited as the main reason for this, use of technology was also flagged as a cause of worsening standards in observations with more than half of respondents saying digital observation technology made nurses less likely to be able to identify signs of deterioration by themselves.

Readers' comments (1)

  • We are delighted to see East Kent rightfully celebrating the impending roll-out of our VitalPAC system across their Trust. Unfortunately the last three paragraphs of the article completely miss the point: the 2011 NT report quotes concerns that digital observation equipment reduces vital nurse-patient contact and does not confirm that observations are actually being done. We couldn’t agree more.

    VitalPAC does not measure patient’s vital signs. It enables nurses to capture that information electronically and requires them to make proper contact with the patient as well as record a complete set of observations every time, on time. If VitalPAC samples data from continuous monitoring systems, we present the data clearly on TPR charts as “unvalidated” to highlight the risks associated with bypassing a nurse or HCA.

    VitalPAC captures a complete record of patient monitoring, analysis and escalation as it happens. Charts are always completed fully and legibly and are immediately available, remotely, on the hospital intranet for those nursing and medical staff with appropriate access rights. It is really simple to use, saves staff time and makes it easier and quicker to escalate care when needed. It provides exactly the sort of real-time intelligence about what is happening on every ward that senior clinicians and managers need to run their hospital properly.

    VitalPAC has been carefully designed to fit in with clinical workflows and improves the reliability of healthcare delivery as well as outcomes. We are always delighted to provide more information to individuals and organisations that, like East Kent, wish to remain at the forefront of innovative practice - visit www.vitalpac.co.uk for more information.

    Peter Greengross, Medical Director, The Learning Clinic.

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