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E-system to 'revolutionise' way nurses record patient obs

  • 13 Comments

Hospital nurses in Southampton will soon be using a new electronic system to record key patient data, which will help reduce errors and improve patient care, according to managers.

The electronic patient acuity system (ePAMS) allows nurses to record patient observations and some assessments without the need for paper charts and can alert staff to potentially worrying results that may require urgent intervention.

“An ePAMS will revolutionise the way our nurses collect, process and present patient information”

Judy Gillow

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded £876,000 by NHS England from the government’s Nursing Technology Fund to launch the new system, which will be rolled out across the organisation over the next 19 months.

“The implementation of an ePAMS will revolutionise the way our nurses collect, process and present patient information resulting in improved patient care,” said director of nursing Judy Gillow.

As well as providing nurses and doctors with real-time information to help review a patient’s progress, the hope is the system will reduce the risk of errors when writing down readings or information on paper.

The system will automatically calculate “early warning scores” to alert staff about patients who may need immediate intervention to stop their condition getting worse.

“An ePAMS will contribute to the improvement of patient safety and outcomes,” said trust associate medical director Neil Pearce.

“It will help to change the current practice from one where we react to a change in the patient’s conditions to one where we can identify changes much sooner and therefore pro-actively prevent problems from developing.”

The trust’s IT and clinical teams will be working together to implement the system by the end of 2016.

“It will help to change the current practice from one where we react to a change in the patient’s conditions to one where we can identify changes”

Neil Pearce

The organisation, which is one of the largest acute teaching trusts in England, is currently in the process of identifying a supplier to provide the technology.

The project follows hot on the heels of other innovative schemes. Last year University Hospital Southampton was awarded £1.1m from NHS England to cover half the cost of a new digital monitoring system for critically ill patients.

More recently the trust gained £1.35m to develop a new electronic health records system across the organisation.

  • 13 Comments

Readers' comments (13)

  • scared.com!!! having just been through the experience where all observations are fine-- no need to go to hospital---the patient was dehydrated, not eating for a month and generally weak---just looking at her it could be seen ---- will this not take away those skills of the nurses of actually looking at the patient, rather than rely on the technology to say something is wrong

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  • Michael Bond

    Re: scared.com
    No. An neither will the sky fall on our heads. This is an EARLY warning system and this approach has been demonstrated to save lives in an acute environment. (Evidence from integrated early warning for sepsis implemented in Spain.)
    This system will assist nurses to manage effectively, not miss clues, but does not detract from the necessary skills we emply every day.
    It might even free up time for direct patient care, you never know.

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  • We have been using an electronic system for recording observations, blood sugars, weights for some time now and it is brilliant. Handheld device to input the data and it automatically links to our electronic patient record where all the written clinical notes are kept.

    It hasn't taken away the clinical skills of nurses but it is a very useful tool for prompting review of patients.

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  • good grief - judging by all the errors one encounters with all services in everyday life hopefully this one is really safe and fool proof - I have my very great doubts. many of these systems turn their operators into zombies who lose their self reliance and ability to think!

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  • I'm not a techno phobe in the slightest but I do feel this make nursing staff 'lazy' and perhaps miss the obvious in patients that an electronic device can't pick up on. I'm qualified almost 20 years and thank my lucky stars on a daily basis that I trained when I did but the way we taught has been invaluable throughout my career. It breaks my heart to see nursing students coming up through their semesters and newly qualified nurses starting who can't recognise the sick patients from obs or blood results or, low and behold, even interacting with their patients because they are so reliant on technology.

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  • Anonymous 8:08, NO system is foolproof and really safe, all engineers can do is minimise the risks. Do you fly? Do you drive a modern car? These vehicles are highly computerised and the biggest problem is the nut behind the wheel. Human error is a fact of life, it can never be eliminated just have the effects minimised. Machines are tools to assist us in our tasks, they do not replace us neither do they remove the need for clear, logical thought and turn us into zombies.

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  • Matthew  Carr

    Oh please... in 20 years you'll wonder how we did without this. How easy right now is it to get a decade of a patients history? Now the moment they turn up you'll be able to access the patients baseline and notice if there's iregularities in their stats rather than a few hours later.

    As for becoming lazy? Because swiching from manual to automatic stats machines did that. Face it. it'll make doing obs faster, results will be clearer and easier to transfer between wards.

    What we need to do is get a major tech industry based on cheep and durable machines (that work well) and start making them in the uk designed by nurses for the NHS. Think about it... we could then start flogging them to other countries if we made them well enough boosting the money coming into the NHS and overall improving patient care.

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  • '...neither do they remove the need for clear, logical thought and turn us into zombies.'


    want a bet? go and read some of the research into the topic!

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  • 'What we need to do is get a major tech industry based on cheep and durable machines (that work well) and start making them in the uk designed by nurses for the NHS.'


    It might help your spelling as well, although modern spell checkers seem to prove otherwise and often have a mind of their own. Your comment clearly highlights the danger of human error in the absence of a manual check of your work before disseminating it!

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  • There was me thinking this was standard. I noticed them being used at our local acute hospital last year when I ended up as a patient.

    The BMJ states "death rates at two large hospitals fell by more than 15% after nurses started using handheld computers instead of paper charts to record patients’ vital signs, according to new research.


    The drop in mortality represented more than 750 lives saved in a single year across the two sites, the paper published online in journal BMJ Quality & Safety found.

    Nurses record patients’ blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels and other indicators on the handheld devices.

    “We believed traditional paper charts were not doing the job well enough”
    Paul Schmidt

    Specialist software, called VitalPAC, automatically calculates if the patient is deteriorating.

    If so, the nurse is warned to increase the frequency of their monitoring of the patient and, in some cases, to alert a doctor or a rapid response team.

    The introduction of the new system was followed by a fall of almost 400 deaths among patients in one year at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, and a drop of more than 370 in the same period at University Hospital, Coventry, according to the research."

    That explains my last year's experience, it turns out my local hospital was one of the pioneers.

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