Supporting infection prevention and control through technology

Case study: Victoria Pye, Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Background to learning

Many nurses have been redeployed as part of the COVID-19 response – sometimes to several different wards across the trust in order to flexibly meet the demand for care. Keeping track of who is where, and when, has rarely been so important and is a significant part of effective infection prevention and control if patients or colleagues test positive for COVID-19.  

Learning and advice to be shared

At Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, the electronic patient record system was adapted to support updated infection prevention and control practices. Nurses and other staff access the system via handheld devices and can use it to record a range of observations and clinical measures.

Importantly, the devices also record the bed in which patients have been cared for and the staff members providing care. The system links into a bed mapping system so staff can quickly obtain information such as patients who have been nursed in the same ward or bay as another COVID-19 positive patient. In this way, those who were in the nearby beds and colleagues who had cared for them can be supported with good infection control procedures.

The devices enable senior staff to overview and monitor patients remotely, as required, when in charge of a shift. This allows teams to minimise patient contact with staff who are not directly caring for individuals and has supported communication across the multi-disciplinary team with data feeding into one portal.

The hand-held mobile devices are easily moved around and there are larger tablet-sized devices that allow more detailed viewing and are normally used for ward rounds or viewing additional detailed documentation. The devices are only used by one member of staff at a time and offer advantages over paper-based alternatives in terms of being easily cleaned.

As staff log in at the start of their shift, they can see the patients they are responsible for. Patient data is updated after each contact and this is documented from the bedside to reduce risk of errors while helping to track assessments, monitor wellness and respond immediately should any deterioration or concerns be raised.

Wary that patients may assume that staff are distracted by their mobile devices, staff also recognised that educating patients on how the devices are supporting care provides reassurance and supports acceptance of this new way of working.

Would it be beneficial to retain these changes?

Digital and mobile technology is already recognised as improving the monitoring and treatment of patients with fast access to accurate and real-time information which supports effective communication across teams.  As services encounter new situations like COVID-19, it is right to look at how the benefits of technology can be maximised and used to support the solutions needed.

Nurses can be proud of the profession’s role in managing nosocomial infection. In relation to COVID- 19, tracking staff and patient contact could be a valuable tool in the robust local management of many areas of practice.

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