Ditching paper at West Suffolk Hospital

An innovative project to replace hard copy patient safety risk assessments with a new electronic version is taking place at West Suffolk Hospital to reduce paperwork and free up more time for nurses to spend caring for patients

The new computer-based risk assessment has been developed over the past year and is the first of its kind in the country. It was rolled out across the whole hospital this week following a successful trial on ward F6.

The programme replaces traditional paper-based assessments and is used to record the risk to each patient of a variety of factors, including malnutrition, falling, dehydration, pressure ulcers and developing infections such as MRSA. It then produces a “risk profile” tailored to each individual, highlighting action which should be taken during their admission to make sure patient safety is maintained.

The programme has reduced the documentation which nurses complete from ten pages to just three, in turn helping save time while improving record-keeping.

“In the past we had to fill in numerous paper risk assessments for every patient, which duplicated a lot of information and was time-consuming,” said Ian Coe, clinical

practice and education coordinator, who developed the system.

“This new assessment brings all of those documents into one place, which means nurses only need to fill in the chart once, rather than several times. It has removed seven pages of paperwork and reduced the time it takes to assess a patient by half, which means staff have more time available to give care.

“Another benefit is that the programme will automatically alert colleagues if the initial assessment shows that specific action needs to be taken. For example, if someone is at risk of malnutrition, the programme will send an email referral to the dietetics team.

Again, this helps save time and ensures every patient is getting the best possible care specifically tailored to their individual needs.

“We’re really pleased that we’ve been able to develop such a useful alternative to paper-based assessments. The programme has been really well-received by staff so far and we hope it will make a real difference to all patients now it is being rolled-out across West Suffolk Hospital.”

Staff currently use a portable work station to fill in the assessments. Over the coming months, the hospital plans to introduce handheld wireless tablet devices on all wards to further improve efficiency.