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Dr Tracker eyes patient progress 24/7 at Hereford County Hospital
8:00am Thursday 12th July 2012 in Health
HEREFORD County Hospital wanted a very special recruit – able to assist in crucial clinical decisions 24/7 and available on call wherever patients may be to manage their care process from start to finish.
This tall order went out to the county’s own “Q” and what he came up with could well be the future for the NHS.
The hospital knows Dr Nick Exon as a go-to guy for any kind of IT programming.
This time, the unassuming doctor faced his toughest technical challenge yet – he had to, literally, make a friend.
Now, with the introductions out of the way, everyone knows Dr Tracker and what he can do.
Dr Tracker is a key member of the county’s clinical decision unit (CDU), the team that assesses specific patient stays and needs.
He’s always on hand, online, to keep the team up to real-time speed as to how its patients present, where in the hospital they are, what treatment they are receiving, how that treatment needs to be managed, and when they can go home.
On discharge, Dr Tracker will even pen referral letters to specialist departments or GPs.
“I’m not aware of any hospital using a real time tracker,” said Dr Michael Hall, clinical leader to the county’s CDU project.
Already there’s talk of Dr Tracker being adopted by other health trusts, because whatever he’s worth on the wards, he can bring to the boardroom too.
In nearly a year that the system has been evolving it is estimated to have saved the Wye Valley NHS trust around £400,000 in freeing up bed space – one of the biggest management issues the hospital has.
On average, 80 per cent of the near-500 patients to have gone through the CDU process are discharged to await test results or further treatment within six hours of assessment when many could have previously faced stays of up to 72 hours.
Dr Tracker works closely with the five nurse practitioners CDU puts on the frontline. It is they that manage the process, able to access the system by laptop anywhere on the hospital site, adapted as it is to work with the site’s existing software.
Dr Hall says that though the system is specifically designed to diagnose, manage and treat patients with the potential for early discharge, final decisions on admission and discharge still stay with doctors.
What the system offers, he says, is a set of criteria matching specific patents to options for quicker treatment and appropriate discharge, all of which can be managed through “a series of clicks”.
So far, Dr Tracker and the CDU have one of the highest patient satisfaction scores for the work they do and, as the system evolves, its scope for application across the NHS is being spoken of as an alternative to often cumbersome retrospective clinical decision processes.
And the trust, in turn, is well satisfied with the CDU, having just given the system its innovation of the year award.
Overall, the trust has a better record on beating bed blocking than most other health trusts in the West Midlands and has submitted a £3m bid a fund, managed by the West Mercia Primary Care Trust Cluster, to invest in work across the whole organisation.
The trust hopes to get at least £1.6m as a one-year pump priming sum for the likes of district nurses, psychologists and support workers to help improve movement from acute care to home care.