Up to five more NHS trusts look set to trial sophisticated tracking technology, as part of efforts to improve bed management and patient experiences.
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is among those taking part in a pilot supported by the regulator NHS Improvement. It is planning to launch its “Co-ordination Centre” programme in the autumn.
“We’re hoping it will achieve a much more slick patient experience”
Unlike The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, the first to pilot the technology, it will not yet be testing electronic badges for staff. However, it will use the technology to track equipment, manage beds and follow the progress of patients to a certain extent.
“Patients will have a name band and when they leave that will be put into a drop-box on the ward, which will then automatically tell us that bed has been vacated and request a bed clean,” said clinical operations manager Lorraine Walton.
“As far as I know, we will be able to track patients through procedural area so we know whereabouts they are in theatres, recovery, anaesthetic rooms,” she said.
“But we won’t be tracking where they are in the hospital, so if they leave the theatre recovery room it won’t tell us that they have arrived on a ward,” she told Nursing Times.
The scheme, which is due to go live from November, will encompass University College Hospital, the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson maternity wing and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square.
“It will put a stop to nurses wasting valuable time searching for equipment”
As in Wolverhampton, bed managers will be able to use the system to see the status of beds at a glance.
“The co-ordination centre will have a view of all areas so we can see how many beds are empty and ready at this current time, how many beds are empty but being cleaned, how many beds are waiting to be cleaned,” said Ms Walton.
“It will also give us a visual of how many patients are going home today and we can see their discharge milestones so we know how close to their discharge time they are,” she said, adding that the main goal of the pilot was “to improve the patient experience”.
“We’re hoping it will achieve a much more slick patient experience and reduce the length of time patients have to wait for beds,” said Ms Walton. “There will be a process whereby we can see a patient not only needs a bed but is now ready to move so have had all their clinical procedures done.
“We can allocate the next available bed to the patient who next needs it,” she said. “It will reduce waiting times for beds and also help us know what capacity we have got coming up – not just on the day but 48 hours in advance.
“It should help us manage our demand and capacity, but also ensure we get patients into the right bed first time – so we are not putting them in one bed because we’re not sure a discharge is going to happen and then having to move them to the right place later,” she added.
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Ms Walton told Nursing Times that she anticipated the TeleTracking system would give nurses on the ground “their time back”.
“It will completely reduce the amount of calls bed managers make to ward staff and give them that time back to spend with their patients,” she said.
“When a patient leaves at the moment, the nurses spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone trying to request a bed clean. That will all be automated,” she noted.
“They will not only be able to see the progress of bed cleans but requests for porters too – they can see the porter is en route and can get that patient ready so there is less wasted time,” she said.
“For me, it’s just making nursing so much easier, because they know what is happening next in their patient’s journey,” she told Nursing Times.
The trust has yet to install the technology but has run a number of “discovery sessions” with staff to look at current processes and how things might work differently in the future.
Ms Walton said there were understandable worries about the introduction of new technology, but she was encouraged by the fact many had asked to become staff champions and “super users” for the programme, who would support the rest of their teams to use it.
She said the pilot was also useful preparation for the imminent widespread roll-out of electronic hospital records and would help staff get used to working with digital systems.
“At the moment we are doing everything with pens and paper and a written whiteboard, but this will mean they get used to seeing information presented on screen in this way,” she said.
More trusts to ‘give nurses more time’ with technology
The Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust also said it would be focusing on testing the “operational platform and hospital co-ordination centre” aspects of the technology.
As at other pilot trusts, this will include automated porter requests and bed turnaround services, bed and theatre management, and equipment tracking.
Trust chief executive Tony Chambers has previously described the pilot as a “flagship project” for the organisation.
“We see this as a flagship project in turning around our approach to patient flow and providing faster, safer care by increasing the responsiveness of our NHS workforce,” he said.
“It will put a stop to nurses wasting valuable time searching for equipment, and limit duplication of efforts in clinical admission staff repeatedly chasing updates on patient status to understand bed availability,” he said.
“The reality is that, if we improve flow for each and every patient by just a few hours, it gives us an additional 20 beds a day, which is much needed capacity delivered through more efficient working instead of spending,” he added.
The Mid and South Essex Success Regime – incorporating Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, Southend University Hospitals Foundation Trust and Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital Foundation Trust – has also been announced as one of the pilot sites.
“We’re trying to see how quickly we can get the pilots up and running”
It is likely to use the technology in a very similar way to the other pilots. However, the group of trusts have yet to confirm the extent or scope of its pilot scheme.
Meanwhile, NHS Improvement said it had high hopes for the pilots given results from the US and Wolverhampton, which the regulator has highlighted on its website.
“We have seen lessons from the US that it can have quite a significant impact on capacity – bed capacity,” said Bernard Quinn, director of improvement programmes at NHS Improvement.
“We’re expecting it to improve bed turnover rates,” he said. “We’re also expecting it to have a positive impact on theatre utilisation as well.”
Mr Quinn said the goal was to get the trials under way as swiftly as possible and start gauging the impact.
“We’re trying to see how quickly we can get the pilots up and running and how quickly we can see the benefits flowing from it,” he said.
“One of the things we will be doing is benchmarking – baselining where the trust is at the moment, so we can report and track the improvements we expect the trust to see over the course of the next few months.”
TeleTracking technology pilots
- The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust
- The Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust
- University College Hospitals London NHS Foundation Trust
- Mid-Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust
- Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust