The installation of a digital patient monitoring system on two dementia wards in the West Midlands cut falls by a third and saved nurses a considerable amount of time, a clinical study found.
Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust introduced the Oxehealth Digital Care Assistant in half of the bedrooms across Manor Hospital’s Pembleton and Stanley wards, and measured the impact over eight months.
“Nursing staff have really enjoyed using the technology”
Using an optical sensor, the software detects and alerts staff to patient movement and can also measure their vital signs.
During the clinical study that ran from March to October last year, there were 33% fewer falls at night than in the same period of 2017.
There was a 71% reduction in time spent by nurses on enhanced observations required after a potentially serious fall – saving 7,800 clinical hours per year for the hospital.
The falls that did take place were less severe, resulting in a 56% reduction in demand for A&E services.
In addition, 92% of staff said they felt the system helped them to provide better care during the night and improved patient safety on the ward.
Tracey Wrench, Coventry and Warwickshire chief nurse and chief operating officer, said the data was “promising” and suggested patients were safer.
“Nursing staff have really enjoyed using the technology and working with Oxehealth on embedding this innovation into nursing practice,” she said. “It has also been supported by the whole multidisciplinary team.”
In the hospital, patients stay in individual rooms off a main corridor but because they are at a high risk of falls staff are typically required to check on them every 15 minutes.
This proves to be time consuming for nurses and disruptive for patients, particularly at night, according to the trust.
If an “unwitnessed” fall takes place, nurses have to ramp up observations to ensure the patient have not suffered a head injury.
To address these issues, the trust launched a research project and installed the Oxehealth Digital Care Assistant in six bedrooms on each ward.
An alert is sent to a central monitor when a patient is on the edge of their bed or getting out of bed, which enables staff to react quickly and take preventative action.
“We can attend to patients within seconds if they are disorientated or confused”
If there is a fall, staff can also use the Digital Care Assistant to replay footage of the incident, turning an unwitnessed fall into a witnessed one, and avoiding the need for invasive observations if no head injury occurred.
To establish the impact of the installation, the trust ran a clinical study with staff on the night shift between 7.30pm and 7.30am, when 70% of falls in bedrooms take place.
The study compared incident data from January 2017 to February 2018 with March 2018 to October 2018, ran surveys and interviews with staff, and conducted interviews with carers.
Stanley ward manager, Linda Fitzpatrick, said: “The severity of falls and associated injuries have reduced massively at night; I think it’s because we can intervene earlier. For example, we can attend to patients within seconds if they are disorientated or confused so they don’t slip and fall.”
Five of the six carers interviewed for the study felt the system improved care for patients on the ward, and four felt it offered greater privacy and less disruption than the trust’s current protocols.
Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership has installed Digital Care Assistant on a permanent basis on its dementia wards.
It has extended the use of the technology to 65 rooms on its adult acute wards at its Caludon Centre.
Hugh Lloyd-Jukes, chief executive of Oxehealth, said best practices from Coventry and Warwickshire would be shared with other customers.