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.