The Welsh Ambulance Service Trust has agreed a deal with Anoto for 1700 digital pens to be given to its ambulance crews across Wales.

It is Anoto’s largest digital pen roll out in the NHS to date, and service for the pens will be provided by Vodafone UK. The total contract is worth £850,000 and will last for an initial run of three years.

By using the digital pens, ambulance crews in Wales will be able to complete a handwritten patient clinical record as per usual. Rather than duplicating a copy of the form to be transferred to the trust’s clinical audit department for scanning and verification, the paramedic’s notes will be stored directly on the pen.

This encrypted data can then be transferred instantly to the audit department once a pen is docked at a hospital or the ambulance station.

The decision to use digital pens comes after a successful trial at Swansea ambulance station. Other alternatives, such as tablet devices, were evaluated by the trust, but the pens were deemed to be the best fit considering that they require the least amount of change to the paramedic’s current routine.

Richard Lee, head of clinical services at the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, said: “Digital pen technology will drive significant improvements in our reporting capabilities and the way we measure the quality of the care we provide.

“We know that these devices are easy for our staff to use, and still allow the ambulance crew to focus on their patients rather than having to stare at a computer screen. It will also enable us to cut our use of paper by 50%.”

Switching to the digital pen system should save considerable time for the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust’s 2,576 staff, considering 500,000 patient clinical records are completed by the trust each year

Anoto has existing relationships with NHS trusts, including a 2011 roll out at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for 800 members of staff and the use of digital pens for midwives at Ashford and St Peter's NHS Foundation Trust.

There is also the possibility to expand the use of digital pens in Wales. According to Anoto, plans are under consideration to integrate its service with an all-Wales emergency department system and to transfer data from digital pens when an ambulance is on route to a hospital using Vodafone’s mobile network.