iPads will be deployed to more than 200 paramedics in Kent to help them manage and send patient electronic information remotely.

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has been testing Kainos’ Evolve document management software, using an “electronic patient clinical record” version designed specifically for ambulance services.

The software allows clinician to update patients’ status in the field using the iPad rather than paper. It also works without an internet connection, updating automatically when the device is back online.

The pilot was launched in October last year with just five users but has since expanded to 20, who have filled out 1000 documents through the system. Initially the programme only covered discharges and referrals from care, not journeys to hospital, but the 20 paramedics are now using the system to record all patient journeys.

Earlier this month, the trust’s board approved the roll-out of the programme at its Thanet operation unit in Kent, with 200 clinicians getting iPads by the end of August. The plan is to eventually have the system replace paper across the trust, which covers Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, Surrey, and North East Hampshire and clocked up more than half a million patient journeys last year.

Karen Mann, the trust’s IT programme development manager, said the move was important step in streamlining the handover with emergency departments and reducing paper use.

At this stage, the system works much like the paper system but digitally, with a new form created for each patient episode rather adding to an overarching patient record. Once recorded, the information is converted into a pdf, which is emailed to hospitals.

Eventually, the hope is this data will feed directly into acute and primary care systems, and any future regional shared care records but Mann said it was still “early days”.

The trust had opted for a gradual roll-out to ensure the new technology didn’t slow care delivery and was accepted by staff, she said.

“We’ve got eight minute to get anywhere. If the technology doesn’t work, they [the staff] are not going to use it.”

“We have now got a system that works, and works first time.”

Steve Topley, the trust’s clinical lead for deployment, said the system replaced four papers forms with one, simplifying the interaction with other health services.

“It saves precious time and can greatly improve safety for patients.”

It is the first time that Kainos, primarily an acute sector supplier, has been involved in a project in the ambulance sector. The company intends to expand its footprint further and will use the tool as the basis of an application that it will market to other ambulance services.

The trust has said it is the only UK ambulance service using iPads for its clinical records, and the trial had attracted plenty of interest from other services.