District nurses in Powys have been issued with smart phones as part of a project to enable community staff to record patient data electronically.

The Community Health Across Agencies Project aims to provide community staff with mobile technology to eradicate duplicate data entry, provide better management information and enable links with GP, hospital and national child health systems. Work on developing the links is already underway.

All 140 district nurses in Powys were issued with the HTC TyTN II smart phone in January, and the 45 health visitors in the area are in the process of receiving the phones. Other staff who may be included in the project include specialist nurses, midwives, learning disabilities staff and child protection teams.

Judith Paget, chief executive of Powys Teaching Local Health Board, said the system was a pioneering step for the area.

She added: “We have to seize the opportunities that 21st century technology gives us if we want to give the best possible care to our patients. Our district nurses are already doing this and I am enormously proud of the leading role they are playing.”

The district nurses cover an area of more than 2,000 square miles. They can synchronise the phones with a computer at their base and download details of their calls for the day, including the patients’ full demographic details.

The information captured will soon be updated using the mobile phone network, which means staff will no longer need to connect via their base.

Electronic forms and checklists on the phones enable the nurses to record patient information at each visit, including where the contact took place, what tests were done, any prescriptions supplied, specimens taken and the time spent at each contact.

Details of the day’s visits can be uploaded from the phone into the system at base so that colleagues can access it and the information can also be printed and added to the patient notes.

Phones can also be updated at a hospital as well as from GP surgeries, enabled a better service out-of-hours. Nurses can also print out key information using a mobile Bluetooth printer either in the patient’s home or at base.

The CHAPP team said the phones mean nurses no longer have to manually count how many patients they see each month and provide more accurate information to enable planning of services.

The phones are installed with Safeboot encryption software and the CHAPP team said discussions had been held about using the phones as an alarm system to monitor staff safety.

Gemma Lewis, CHAPP project manager, said the project had progressed due to the ongoing commitment of the staff to make it work. She told EHI Primary Care that the project was also looking at the use of netbooks to provide a larger screen size for staff.

She added: “We have tried to ensure that all suggestions from the nurses have been acted on as rapidly as possible. It helps maintain motivation and has allowed the project to progress quickly and successfully.”