Oxford IT system lowers ‘nursing workload’, study shows

digital health
“The results of this study, taken in conjunction with previous work, supports the assertion that a well-designed system can save significant time in clinical practice,” the study states

New system developed at the Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust can maximise efficiency of clinical practice

[Oxfordshire, UK] An IT system developed by Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust can reduce the time used to input patient information by nearly 30%, a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association shows.

“Our results suggest that introduction of an e-Obs system could lower nursing workload as well as increase documentation quality,” the authors, some of which were also involved in the design of the project, write.

The System for Electronic Notification and Documentation (SEND) has now been fully deployed at the trust, helping nurses add information about a patient’s vital signs through a tablet, which can then also be incorporated into the EPR system.

The data is connected through barcoded wristbands that help identify patients, alerting clinicians faster in case a patient is in serious risk of deterioration.

OUH reveals that each ward benefits from six ‘tablet computers’; the study was conducted between November 2014 and December 2015 across three wards in the Churchill and Horton hospitals.

It was recently announced that the system, along with two other digital health technologies, will also be deployed across four other NHS trusts this year.

“SEND, GDm-health and EDGE-COPD, demonstrate the benefits of the multi-disciplinary collaboration we have developed over the past decade in Oxford,” said Professor Lionel Tarassenko, Head of Engineering Science at Oxford University.

Reducing error risks

The system was initially deployed at the trust through the Department of Health’s Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards NHS Technology Fund as it was believed that difficulties in calculating risk scores or ‘illegible handwriting’ could lead to ‘misinterpretation’ of notes when it comes to patient information:

“SEND incorporates a number of features designed to reduce errors. In common with other e-Obs systems, SEND automatically calculates EWS (Early Warning Score) scores, thereby eliminating EWS calculation errors,” the study states.

Although the incorporation of technology into healthcare systems has been met with ‘mixed success’ in the past, efficient management of workload can now be cited as an immediate benefit for both staff and patients, advancing digital agendas for NHS trusts.

“The results of this study, taken in conjunction with previous work, supports the assertion that a well-designed system can save significant time in clinical practice. These time savings, in addition to the data quality benefits of electronic systems, present a convincing case for the adoption of e-Obs systems as part of routine inpatient care,” the authors conclude.