Nurses take part in developing vital signs app

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Trust rolls out ThinkVitals app to replace handwritten reports

Nurses at a west London hospital trust have collaborated with an IT services company in developing an app to support monitoring the vital signs of patients on the wards.

Male nurse using app at bedsideChelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has now rolled out the ThinkVitals app to all of its wards for adult patients following successful results from a pilot that begin in 2015.

The app was co-created with ThinkShield and used initially in the hospital’s acute assessment unit. Now around 400 nurses and healthcare assistants are inputting vital signs information – such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and respiratory rate – through handheld devices rather than paper based observation charts.

Dr Barry Quinn, assistant director of nursing at the trust, told UKAuthority: “What’s really fascinating about this is that the company and clinicians got together from the very beginning of its development. It was really engaging and the nurses and doctors have learned a lot about the opportunities and challenges of using IT.”

The development was managed by a steering group that took regular feedback from clinical staff, following the principles of user centred design outlined in the Wacther Review on NHS IT.

Colour coded scores

ThinkVital converts the vital signs information into early warnings scores, the totals of which are colour coded for display on the desktop PCs at nurses’ stations. It follows a traffic light pattern of green/amber/red, with the latter showing the patient needs urgent attention.

Quinn said, that while the data is currently entered manually, the trust and ThinkShield are beginning to explore the possibilities of it being captured automatically for feeding into the app.

It is now generating 61,000 transactions per day, and plans are being laid for it to be used for fluid balance charts, pain management and wound management.

“There could be other charts we could develop and roll out,” he said.

The app is being used primarily with Samsung Galaxy Tabs – chosen because they fit neatly into nurses’ pockets – and laptops set on trollies. It can run on Android and Windows systems.

Satisfied users

Quinn added that it has been well received by staff. A survey of just over 100 users showed that 95% thought it was easy to use and wanted to see more such solutions, and 84% thought the trust should move towards digitising all the documents used in patient care.

 “Nurses are experts in caring for people and need support with the growing need for IT in the clinical setting,” Quinn said.

“Nursing care is a combination of clinical and human skills, supported by IT solutions. Any IT system that is user friendly, is going to be much more attractive to nurses, and ThinkVitals is just that.”  

Image from George Vasilopoulos/Chelsea and Westminster Hospital