ALL patients admitted to the Countess of Chester Hospital will be asked to wear an electronic wristband in a pioneering initiative to improve efficiency.

Four thousands sensors throughout the site give a real-time picture of exactly where staff and patients are – and tagged equipment too – with data picked up from badges and wristbands.

This new patient flow technology aims to reduce the time people spend in hospital by improving bed management and giving staff more time to care for patients.

The information is sent to a co-ordination centre, which acts like an air traffic control room.

Decisions can reduce waiting times using the real-time data.

“The Co-ordination Centre will make us more responsive, giving our nurses and doctors more time to spend with patients by reducing the admin and housekeeping tasks they currently have to do,” explained chief executive Tony Chambers.

“Whereas in the past a series of phone calls might have been needed to source a piece of equipment or get an update on a patient having a scan or procedure, the Co-ordination Centre can provide this information at a glance, helping more patients get to the right bed, to be seen by the right specialists, first time.”

He added: “We are the first NHS hospital to adopt the full suite of this technology.

“It’s really exciting for us to be one of the first to use it in the UK.

“It’s still early in the process for us and it might take time to see the full benefits but I’m very proud of our team for being brave enough to take this on.

“I know others will soon follow our lead and it represents a significant investment in our future success as a hospital.”

Initial findings at the Countess include a reduction in the time from a patient being discharged to their hospital bed being ready for a new patient reduce from around four hours to under two and a half hours.

The award-winning system being installed at the Countess has been created by TeleTracking Technologies.

It is being used to manage 50 per cent of all acute hospital beds in North America and at Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust in the UK, with evidence it makes a positive and significant difference to patient flow.

At the Countess there are 24 wards, 16 theatres, four outpatient departments, radiology, endoscopy and an Accident & Emergency Unit.

In any given stay a patient could have to move across any of these clinical areas multiple times.

Managing that transition can present challenges, with clinical site co-ordinators and patient flow managers hosting many meetings throughout the day and physically visiting these different areas to create the kind of picture that the
Co-ordination Centre will now provide in real-time.

Increased speed and automation are some of the biggest positives the system will bring to the Countess, with a new porter request process and bed turnaround team making a real difference on the wards.

Porters, whose duties include transporting patients and collecting equipment, now have jobs sent to them via hand-held devices, which gives them all the information they need to start and complete a job at a glance. Porter requests average 700 a day.

A new bed turnaround team has been recruited to work in a similar way, with alerts being sent to their hand-held devices as soon as someone is discharged so they can clean the bed ready for the next patient more quickly. This has returned an average of 156 hours a week back to nursing staff

Patient flow manager Adam Brown said: “I’ve been really impressed by how quickly our clinical site co-ordinators and other staff have adapted to the system so far.

“We’ve only been working with it for a few weeks but we’re already seeing improvements.

“What’s great for our team in particular is the increased transparency the real-time data provides to enable us to make better, more reactive decisions in the interests of patient care.

“The co-ordinators no longer need to walk around doing laps of all our wards to gather the information we need – it’s all there on screen.”

Medical director Ian Harvey added: “It’s important for patients that they don’t spend more time in hospital than they need to.

“Everything we do is geared towards getting them seen by the right people first time, limiting any factors that can lengthen their stays.

“The increased transparency of the Co-ordination Centre will help us do this, allowing our teams to collaborate seamlessly across A&E, wards, theatres and radiology.

“It’s a bold change with the potential to make things much better for staff and patients.”