Information technology, patient monitoring  

Hand-held computers analyse patients' vital signs, improve patient care and reduce costs

30 March 2007

Portsmouth, UK. Patients in need of urgent medical attention will be identified and treated more rapidly with the help of a new hand-held computer system.

VitalPAC, designed by The Learning Clinic in conjunction with Microsoft and Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, records, stores, and analyses a patient’s vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, etc) allowing clinicians to effectively monitor the condition of their patients in real time throughout a hospital stay.

Following a successful in-hospital trial running since March 2005, Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust is installing the VitalPAC across the Queen Alexandra site, its major acute hospital.

Studies have shown the system to produce three times fewer errors in the recording and scoring of vital signs data compared to traditional pen and paper methods.

Often the sudden deterioration in a patient’s condition can be preventable if they are identified in time as being ‘at risk’. It is estimated that over 20,000 in-hospital cardiac arrests and similar numbers of unanticipated intensive care unit admissions may be avoidable annually in the UK with earlier recognition and better treatment.

Based on its experience so far, The Learning Clinic estimates that the Trust could save several million pounds over the next few years by using VitalPAC. Early results indicate that just one ward may save £1 million per year by using the system.

Nurses enter key clinical data into hand-held computers at the bedside, rather than onto a traditional paper observation chart. VitalPAC analyses these readings, along with data such as blood test results stored in other hospital databases, and identifies priority patients using an early warning score. An urgent alert is given if the early warning score reveals the patient to be in need of immediate medical attention. All readings are automatically sent via a wireless LAN to a central server. This means that the data can be reviewed on the hospital intranet, tablet PCs, or on other PDAs by any clinician anywhere in the hospital.

Professor Gary Smith, Consultant in Critical Care at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and clinical lead for the project, said of the announcement: “This is an exciting moment for Portsmouth. We believe the VitalPAC system to be a key tool in ensuring improved patient-focused care, enhanced patient safety and greater efficiency in the care of sick patients.”

Roger Killen, Managing Director, The Learning Clinic, said: “The VitalPAC system is a huge step forward for the NHS in the care of patients and the management of resources. Not only will it help ensure the safety of the patient, but it also promotes their timely progress through the tests and investigations that help the clinical teams make accurate diagnosis and treatment.”

John Coulthard, Director of Healthcare for Microsoft comments: “These are exciting times for technology in the health sector and VitalPAC is a fantastic example of smart technology delivering tangible benefits to NHS staff and patients.”

The Learning Clinic and Microsoft are now working with Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust to extend the technology to meet the specific needs of hospital doctors.

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