Welsh ambulance crews to use digi pens

Welsh ambulance crews to use digi pens
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The Welsh Ambulance Service Trust has agreed a deal with Anoto for 1700 digital pens to be given to its ambulance crews across Wales.

It is Anoto’s largest digital pen roll out in the NHS to date, and service for the pens will be provided by Vodafone UK. The total contract is worth £850,000 and will last for an initial run of three years.

By using the digital pens, ambulance crews in Wales will be able to complete a handwritten patient clinical record as per usual. Rather than duplicating a copy of the form to be transferred to the trust’s clinical audit department for scanning and verification, the paramedic’s notes will be stored directly on the pen.

This encrypted data can then be transferred instantly to the audit department once a pen is docked at a hospital or the ambulance station.

The decision to use digital pens comes after a successful trial at Swansea ambulance station. Other alternatives, such as tablet devices, were evaluated by the trust, but the pens were deemed to be the best fit considering that they require the least amount of change to the paramedic’s current routine.

Richard Lee, head of clinical services at the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, said: “Digital pen technology will drive significant improvements in our reporting capabilities and the way we measure the quality of the care we provide.

“We know that these devices are easy for our staff to use, and still allow the ambulance crew to focus on their patients rather than having to stare at a computer screen. It will also enable us to cut our use of paper by 50%.”

Switching to the digital pen system should save considerable time for the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust’s 2,576 staff, considering 500,000 patient clinical records are completed by the trust each year

Anoto has existing relationships with NHS trusts, including a 2011 roll out at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for 800 members of staff and the use of digital pens for midwives at Ashford and St Peter's NHS Foundation Trust.

There is also the possibility to expand the use of digital pens in Wales. According to Anoto, plans are under consideration to integrate its service with an all-Wales emergency department system and to transfer data from digital pens when an ambulance is on route to a hospital using Vodafone’s mobile network.

Last updated: 19 March 2015 12:13


milo46 weeks ago

Agree that whilst digipens may not be the end state, they are certainly a big step in the right direction. Recent capability assessment published here, http://www.pspg.nhs.uk (site now open to all)

Two most important things are 1: Know who's using each pen and 2: Make sure users understand their responsibilities for ensuring accuracy of data - quality of handwriting and / or conversion.

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46 weeks ago

May be the easiest thing to do and is definitely a stepping stone along the journey. I've deployed digital pens into an area where we needed both an electronic record and the patient needed a paper copy. The pens enabled just that capturing a PDF version of the form as well as presenting an OCR version for validating and uploading into structured data fields.

So probably the best of all worlds, but with perceived issues of time taken to validate the OCR of input data from the pen.

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ex-NHS46 weeks ago

"the best of all worlds"

...but only in very specific areas. There are some key strategic areas that they are significantly weaker unless partnered with other mobile devices e.g. record access and process support at the point of care.

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TheInsider46 weeks ago

Hmm. Sounds more like the easiest thing to do, rather than the right thing. Is this information going to be in a format that can be converted to actual text, rather than scribbles on a form, and then shared with GP and Acute systems?

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george38546 weeks ago

Digital pen technology can do both, and encrypt it (256bit AES) and transmit that data on (bluetooth to another device such a mobile phone to further transmit on to a web enabled EPR server), or wifi from pen direct to EPR in a WiFi enabled environment.

I'd suggest its as near to "live" connectivity we are going to get without a tablet PC (with none of the attention that a mobile worker would get with a tablet PC)?

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ex-NHS46 weeks ago

"Sounds more like the easiest thing to do, rather than the right thing."

That's a pretty safe assumption as in most cases digital pens are a stepping stone to cross a cultural and technology divide.

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