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April 9, 2014

Doctors ‘could save an hour a day’ by using laptops on ward rounds

A trial scheme in Birmingham found that replacing paper records provided a major rise in efficiency.

By Vinod

Using a laptop or tablet device while on rounds could save doctors a significant amount of time during their daily routine, a new study has found.

A pilot scheme at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital’s neonatal unit found that using an electronic system reduced the time taken for a doctors rounds by nearly an hour, compared to using paperwork.

Doctors currently spend around 56% of ward round time filling out paperwork, but this could be reduced to around 41% if doctors made use of technology, the study found.

Birmingham Women’s Hospital decided to implement the electronic system in order to rectify problems with handover data and the length of time filling out paperwork during rounds.

Rounds on the intensive care and high dependency wards took an average of four hours and 58 minutes with paperwork, but this was reduced to four hours and one minute with an electronic system, researchers said.

Switching to an electronic system would also allow doctors to read and share records with colleagues much more easily, instead of having to rely on the famed unreadable scrawl of many medical professionals, the study’s authors said. Historical data show that only 68% of entries into medical notes are legible, but an electronic system boosts this to 100%,

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The findings were welcomed by other software providers, who highlighted the need for hospitals to embrace technology in order to simplify complicated processes.

"A paper-based approach has been relied on for all too long and has often resulted in misplaced medical records, operational inefficiencies, and delays to patient care," Mark O’Herlihy, director of Healthcare, EMEA, at Perceptive Software said

"Faster and secure access to the correct and relevant data at the right time could see a real benefit to patient care and confidence in the NHS as we go forward."

The authors of the study added that eight months after the trial, the hospital unit is still using the electronic system, which has saved an estimated 24 hours of doctor time per week.

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