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High tech healthcare in the palms of our hands

23 September 2015

Health Care

Nurses updating patient records with the tap of an iPod and staff automatically alerted by message when a patient deteriorates, sounds like some futuristic fantasy, but that’s exactly what will be happening at Southend Hospital from this autumn.

Welcome to the world of the Nervecentre software, something only made possible by a Nursing Technology Fund bid for £975,000, with a £440,000 top up from the trust, which will see the £1.4 million project improve patient safety and escalation for those who have deteriorated.

Rhona Hayden, lead nurse critical care outreach and clinical lead Nervecentre project, said: "We are improving the quality of care which we are providing, as well as everyday working of the hospital. This is a change in the way we now document patient observations and handover. If you are clinically facing within the hospital then you will be touched by this new system known as Nervecentre. And similar systems are already operating with success in the likes of Nottingham, Durham and Great Ormond Street Hospitals."

There are three very different parts to the Nervecentre project's success, all of which are separate functions but are also interlinked and work together as one. These are e-observations, handover and the hospital at night.

Jane Reeve, change lead for Nervecentre project, added: "It's all stemmed from how we can better manage the patients at risk of deterioration at Southend that was the real driver for change and this is the result."

Handovers now happen 9am and 9pm, seven days a week, with an additional handover at 4pm on a Friday afternoon, all of which takes place in a dedicated centre, the Nervecentre. Handovers involve acute medical teams, the critical care outreach team, clinical site managers, and governance - multidisciplinary teams meeting up and discussing sick patients in hospital in a short but effective 15 minute handover.

Clinical lead for the project, professor John Kinnear associate medical director, said: "It's important that we know where sick patients are and that we can pick up deterioration so we treat them early. Sick patients are at high risk out of hours when their usual doctors are not around which makes it vital that we work together as an effective hospital team. Nervecentre software will facilitate team working and ultimately improve patient outcome."

The safe hospital at night is the next phase of the project where escalation of tasks and urgent calls will be directed to a central 'nurse navigator' who will be an experienced senior nurse able to screen, manage and delegate jobs to the rest of the night team more efficiently than is currently happening. This will reduce work load and free up doctors and nurses to deliver better care to ill patients.

Keiran Donovan, IT projects and transition manager, said: "The software is supporting medical handover work and rather than lots of staff working in various ways, a generic handover template can be shared freely. There is also an observation model which allows staff to upload patient details at their beds via iPods, recording their observation and triggering an escalation to the relevant groups of staff if necessary.

"We are working towards patient escalation becoming automated allowing ward staff to spend more time by the patient's bedside."

The clinical configuration of the system has been led by Rhona Hayden and professor John Kinnear, working on the clinical requirements for the Nervecentre software that will be used for this hospital.

Once testing of the software is complete, staff in early adopter areas will be trained to use the devices working in real patient environments. Initially we will introduce the devices on Balmoral, Rochford and Westcliff wards, all of which offer excellent Wi-Fi, technical support and a rich variety of patients.

Keiran concluded: "We know the system works as we have seen it operating in other hospitals; we just want to be sure it works in our hospital for our patients and staff the best way it possibly can."