Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust has deployed the mobile electronic observations system VitalPAC to record vital signs of patients across its wards.

The roll-out of the service, provided by The Learning Clinic, will begin in July at a stroke ward and will cover 18 hospital wards at the trust by the end of summer at a rate of two wards every fortnight.

Walsall Healthcare acquired VitalPAC after receiving  £677,000 from the second round of the nursing tech fund earlier this year in order to help pay for technology to “provide electronic capture of nursing observations and other critical metrics”.

This funding was matched by the trust, which provides local general hospital and community services to around 260,000 people in Walsall and the surrounding areas.

Walsall Healthcare is deploying both VitalPAC Nurse and VitalPAC Doctor to support staff who will make use of both iPads and iPods to access the programme.

VitalPAC Nurse allows nurses to access and record patient vital signs on a mobile device, even when there is a break in wi-fi.

The functionality being rolled out to Walsall Healthcare includes modules focused on infection management, monitoring of fluid balance and monitoring of indwelling devices (devices, such as catheters, that are left in the body for some time, and which can be prone to infection and other complications).

The system is also able to automatically calculate each patient’s Early Warning Score in order to detect patient deterioration at an early stage and escalate care to a relevant doctor or specialist team.

VitalPAC Doctor is a module that allows doctors to receive patient updates on a mobile device so he or she can provide an immediate response on patient care, such as prioritising tasks or referring patients for advice or transfer.

Marcia Perry, interim deputy director of nursing at Walsall Healthcare, said the main reason the trust wanted to implement an electronic observation system was to support patient safety due to the ability to add “another layer of checking for nurses”.

“No matter how skilled nurses are, any ward is a busy environment and additional checks and prompts are helpful.”

She added that the tool could also impact the way nurses engage with patients as it was “something different” that would encourage conversations with patients and allow them quick access to visuals to explain situations.

The ability for nurses and doctors to discuss a patient while in different parts of the hospital also impressed Perry. “They can have conversations while looking at the same information at the same time.”

Perry added that the decision to go with VitalPACS over other similar tools was influenced by the system's modular approach that begins with basic observations and can then build to other aspects of care.

“We valued the incremental approach,” said Perry, who also said that several staff members were familiar with the system having used it at other hospitals.

VitalPAC is used in more than 600 wards at over 45 hospitals across the UK.

Roger Killen, managing director of The Learning Clinic, has previously told Digital Health News that the early adopters of the system – such as Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust – have seen mortality rates drop by 15%.