Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has introduced a new observation protocol for checking the safety of patients with severe mental health conditions at night, after a formal evaluation of technology from Oxehealth.
The change means nurses no longer have to disturb patients up to four times an hour at night if they are being cared for in one of the rooms equipped with the Oxehealth Digital Care Assistant (DCATM), which uses an optical sensor to detect movement, pulse and breathing rate.
In a change to long-standing national practice, nurses on the Vaughan Thomas Ward, a male acute inpatient ward at the Warneford Hospital, now use the DCA in some rooms to observe movement and measure vital signs. Nurses conduct observations more quickly but no less safely, while patients get a better night's sleep and benefit from more privacy and dignity during their stay.
With support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Health BRC and NIHR CLAHRC, towards the middle of 2018, the trust installed the DCA in its higher acuity corridor (six of the eighteen patient bedrooms) on Vaughan Thomas ward.
A service improvement evaluation revealed that staff can confirm patient safety without disturbing or waking resting patients at night. Between February and April 2019, more than 5,000 observations were taken over 300 patient nights using the new protocol. An in-depth evaluation of 52 observations taken over six patient nights confirmed that the observations taken with support of the DCA were just as safe as those taken without it; and there have been no incidents related to the system.
The findings show that introducing the modified protocol essentially removes the need for staff to routinely wake patients to check they are safe. It greatly improves patients' experience at night. - Professor John Geddes, Director of Research and Development at the Trust and Head of Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford.
This system is a real innovation in mental health. The sensors act as a valuable tool to improve patient experience and also free up nurses for other tasks, so they can dedicate more time to patients who need more intensive care - Dr Alvaro Barrera, lead researcher on this project, Consultant Psychiatrist on Vaughan Thomas ward and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at University of Oxford.
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