From ultrasound scanners to mechanical surgery tools, doctors have long been using technology to shape care for patients in hospitals.
But leaps in digital tech are now paving the way for innovations in bedside care, in a breakthrough that will see nurses equipped with new electronic tools to transform their work.
Leeds is leading the way when it comes to technology for its nurses, and the city’s hospitals are championing the “growing phenomenon” of ‘E-Nursing’.
Scannable wristbands with medication and patient data, digital care records and electronic observation charts are all examples of breakthroughs designed for E-Nurses and clinical staff working at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
“We live in a world of technology at people’s fingertips, and healthcare has to live within that world and utilise the opportunities technology presents to it,” says Jackie Whittle, head of nursing for informatics at the trust. “E-nursing is a growing phenomenon.
Historically, development of new technology in healthcare was targeted at doctors who use technology to do things – carry out procedures etc – to patients.
“But as tech is being used more and more at the bedside, it has to be more nurse-focused.”
Today the YEP is shining a spotlight on the latest innovations in healthcare as NHS chiefs have launched a week-long campaign to show how the latest technology is empowering nurses.
The campaign is being run by Leeds-based NHS Digital that works to improve care by making better use of technology, data and information. The organisation, which works across the country, is based in Leeds city centre and employs more than 2,000 people.
It follows a drive by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which in 2016 passed a motion that by 2020 every UK nurse should be an e-nurse.
A trailblazer in nursing technology, Leeds Teaching Hospitals has piloted the Scan4Safety programme, where patients’ ID wristbands include a scannable barcode with medical records that can be read on an iPad.
“Patients feel more confident because they feel it’s safer,” Ms Whittle added.
“When we scan a barcode on their wristband to immediately bring up their patient records on our screen, they know we have the right person’s information and all the info we need to know about them.”
The trust is now also working to develop its own E-observations system, where traditional paper observations charts are replaced with electronic ones.
It is set to be rolled out across all adult hospital facilities in Leeds by November this year.
The new system will link into the innovative Leeds Care Record - an integrated electronic care record that NHS services across Leeds are signed up to.
It shows a patient’s hospital records, information on current conditions and surgeries.
The Leeds Care Record is used by doctors treating patients in A&E, and it is also accessed by the city’s GPs.
“I’m extremely supportive of the use of bedside technology in driving forward improvements for patients and staff,” says Suzanne Hinchliffe, chief nurse at the NHS trust.
“It makes absolute sense to put nurses at the forefront of this work, given their extensive knowledge and unique position at the frontline of patient care.
“In Leeds we have taken this role very seriously and we are proud to be leading the way in this field.”
Another breakthrough is the introduction of e-medicines, replacing paper prescription charts with electronic ones, accessible from laptops, tablets or computers.
It is already in place at St James’ and Chapel Allerton Hospitals, and set to be rolled out at Leeds General Infirmary.
Leaps in technology are ‘transforming treatment and safety for patients’
Today Leeds-based NHS Digital has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of technology in nursing.
Its E-Nursing campaign comes after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which represents nurses across the country, passed a motion during its 2016 congress that by 2020 every UK nurse should be an E-nurse.
The RCN’s call has been backed by NHS Digital, which is running its own week-long campaign to raise the profile of E-nursing.
The organisation has pledged to “play a pivotal role” in realising the RCN’s 2020 ambition.
It is working with the RCN, NHS England and Health Education England to highlight some of the areas in which technology is transforming nursing.
Anne Cooper, Chief Nurse at NHS Digital, said: “Nurses are the bedrock of health and care – so much is asked of them and yet they consistently deliver world class care for their patients.
“The RCN is absolutely right to be placing such a priority on ensuring nurses across the NHS have the tools, skills and resources they need to make the best use of technology and act as effective e-nurses.
“We are pleased to endorse that campaign, and commit to working alongside them and other partners to play our role in delivering their ambition of making every nurse an e-nurse by 2020.”
“NHS Digital’s products and services are helping to transform many of the facets of nursing, midwifery and care across the country.
“From electronic patient records, which have allowed nurses, midwives and care staff to utilise mobile working, to enabling safe sharing of data, such as through our Child Protection Information Sharing project, we are delivering 21st century solutions to enabling improved patient care in the digital age.”
Bosses at the RCN said the latest advancements in technology present “huge opportunities” to improve healthcare.
Janet Davies, RCN chief executive, said: “Digital skills are key to harnessing these chances and the RCN is pleased to be working with NHS Digital for the benefit of the whole nursing workforce, and their patients.
“Technology and data are transforming healthcare, presenting huge opportunities to improve treatment, patient safety and wellbeing.
“It’s vital that nurses have the skills they need to make the most of these opportunities, and that’s what this project is all about.”