A new digital early warning system at a Lanarkshire hospital is helping doctors to identify the sickest patients in the emergency department.

The Patientrack system is being trialled at University Hospital Monklands in Airdrie ahead of the opening of Scotland’s first digital hospital in Wester Moffat in 2031.

Large display screens show clinicians which patients are deteriorating using risk scores and replaces an ageing paper chart system which requires manual updates.

Instead nurses can record vital signs data on iPads and the results are immediately uploaded to the digital system.

Dr Gordon McNeish, emergency medicine consultant and NHS Lanarkshire’s associate medical director for unscheduled care, said: “The new system moves away from using paper charts to record key clinical observations such as blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels and temperature.

“Instead, clinical staff enter these onto iPads as patients arrive in ED and are assessed in cubicles.

“The benefit of the system in an ED is that it automatically calculates a ‘National Early Warning Score’ (NEWS). The score helps us work out how quickly a patient should be seen and how frequently their observations should be repeated. 

“Instead of having to check through individual sheets of paper to discover which patients are sickest, and when observations are due, there’s a large touchscreen monitor in the main clinical area. This hi-tech approach allows the co-ordinating team to see real-time observations, NEWS scores and outstanding tasks for all ED patients at the same time.”

He added: “The system enables better allocation of resources to the sickest patients as well as oversight of patients in the waiting room who are waiting for space to be seen.

“The clinical team has been using the system for several months and has become used to this advance in technology, which has required a big change in how they work.”

The digital patient observations system is being spearheaded by the Monklands Replacement Project (MRP) – NHS Lanarkshire’s vision for the replacement University Hospital Monklands (UHM), which will be Scotland’s first ‘digital hospital’ when it opens around 2031 at Wester Moffat in Airdrie.

Monklands is the first ED in Scotland to use electronic observations as it works to ensure its digital systems align with plans for the new hospital.

The technological approach reflects the process of innovation that’s at the core of phase three of NHS Lanarkshire’s Operation FLOW, which has a focus on transformation and reform.

Emergency medicine consultant Dr Gautham Balachandran said: “We’re all in agreement that Patientrack has improved awareness of who the sickest patients are – we can see it on the big screen or on our PCs. It makes the ED safer for patients and is more efficient for staff working to assess and treat patients as quickly as possible.”

Clinical support worker Kate Stevenson added: “The new technology took a bit of getting used to but we’re comfortable with it now and it’s impressive to see how much it helps clinicians to monitor how unwell patients are.”    

MRP redesign lead Donna McHenry, who is co-ordinating use of Patientrack at the hospital, said: “The goal is for the new Monklands to be Scotland’s first digital hospital, using systems that allow the most agile technological assistance for patients, staff and visitors.

“That’s why the current Monklands site is leading the way in taking forward digital advances, such as Patientrack, which was previously introduced on wards and is now successfully working in ED.”