Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is to implement VitalPAC, a clinical system for monitoring and analysing patients’ vital signs to improve their healthcare.

VitalPAC, which was developed at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust by the Learning Clinic, is now implemented in more than 20 trusts.

It enables nurses to record seven routine observations, such as temperature and pulse, on hand held devices.

The system’s software, which is based on Windows Mobile Operating System, immediately analyses these readings, along with data such as blood test results stored in other hospital databases, and calculates an early warning score.

Doctors on duty receive an urgent alert if the early warning score reveals that a patient is in need of immediate medical attention.

All readings on VitalPAC 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.

Academic research has shown that it can save a large acute hospital £500,000 a year by prompting faster treatment of patients whose condition is deteriorating.

In Dorset, doctors will be using iPod Touches or a PDA to receive the alerts. Shelley McIndoe, head of ICT, said: “This is our biggest capital project this year. The implementation costs are about £180,000.”

She expected VitalPAC to deliver reduced length of stay by avoiding complications in patients at risk of deterioration. It is being rolled out in surgery now and across the hospital over the course of 2011, she added.

She said: “We have been very impressed with the supplier which is one of the technologically aware and quick to act that we have worked with. By working to HL7 standards we have been able to deliver fast.”

Roger Killen, managing director of the Learning Clinic, said the system can be used also for cannula management and to manage assessments for venous thrombo-embolism.

Newer applications include bed management, with VitalPAC being used to track patients as they move around the hospital and infection control.

He told EHI: “When patients move wards, the first thing nurses do is record their vital signs. Using VitalPAC provides a way of tracking patients and, when linked to the bed management system, of managing beds as well.”

Nurses are now using the system to record warning signs of diarrhoeal illness by asking patients daily about their bowel movements. This has led to a dramatic decrease in hospital acquired infections such as norovirus and C. difficile, said Killen.

VitalPAC was developed in 2005/06 and has been commercially available since 2007. It is now implemented in around 20 UK trusts and has won several awards.