A trial is underway in Scotland to track patients through digital wards as part of an effort to overhaul hospitals’ emergency care services.
The system provides staff with a virtual map of the ward on a big touchscreen display and each patient is represented by an icon that can be clicked on to access their details.
Free beds can be marked and allocated on the digital wards, with the system designed to enable staff to quickly arrange to treat or transfer a patient at the touch of a screen, encouraging whole system working and easing pressure on A&E departments.
The pilot scheme is being run as part of a three-year action plan to shake up emergency care services in hospitals across Scotland.
Initial findings from the trial in NHS Borders suggest the digital wards system could potentially cut the average length of stay in hospital for patients.
Health secretary Alex Neil said changes are necessary because A&E departments are getting busier as a result of the ageing population.
He described the wider initiative as “the most significant ever programme of change to emergency and urgent healthcare services” and said digital wards are “just the start”.
It is essential that A&E departments are viewed in the context of the whole hospital rather than in isolation, he continued.
“This secure new technology will improve how quickly people are treated in our hospitals and how quickly we can get them back at home. I want all boards to have an electronic system in place,” he said.
Mr Neil added that the system reduces the number of phone calls and eases the flow of patients within a hospital.
Dr Hamish McRitchie of Borders General Hospital said the system helps to keep patient stays to a minimum and encourages the effective use of beds.
“We don’t want anyone to be in the wrong ward, or in hospital longer than they need to be - and neither do our patients,” he commented.
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