Community nurses to use digital pens

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NHS Western Isles has become one of the first health boards in Scotland to launch innovative new technology which will result in increased time for community nurses to spend with patients, and less time on administration and data entry.

New ‘digital pens’ are now being used by nurses in the Eastside Team (which covers Tolsta, Back, Stornoway and Point), and community nurses throughout the islands will start using the new technology over the coming weeks.

Funded through the Change Fund, which is intended to strengthen community-based care, the digital pens look similar to regular pens, but they include intricate technology to transfer handwritten notes into a digital format, which can then be recorded and shared. This means that patients’ notes can be saved to a secure system at the point of care (e.g. a patient’s own home), without the nurse having to travel back to their base to access the system and input notes into a computer.

NHS Western Isles eHealth Project Officer Christine Chlad explained: “The aim of introducing the digital pen was to improve the management of the Patient Held Record at the point of care. This means that clinical staff don’t have to input the same data into different systems; the digital pen means they just have to record data once. This reduces the amount of time a nurse spends on administration and data entry, providing more time for patient contact.”

How do the digital pens work?

New forms will be used by nurses, which are created and printed with a unique dot pattern. As the nurse writes on the form with the digital pen, a built-in camera reads the position of the dots and converts the information into coordinated data, which is used to create the handwriting digitally.

Included in the pen is a Bluetooth transmitter, which allows the community nurse to transfer any written data collected by the pen to a paired device for submission to the NHS Western Isles server. The transmission of data from the pen to the main server is achieved either through a mobile phone via Bluetooth or by docking the pen with a PC. The transmission of data is completely secure which means that patient information remains safe.

NHS Western Isles Nurse Director/Chief Operating Officer Nigel Hobson said: “The community nursing teams are very positive about using this new technology, as it’s straightforward, ensures patient information is secure, and will give them time back with patients, rather than time spent inputting data. This is an extremely important development for us in the Western Isles and demonstrates the Board’s commitment to become a world-leader in the application of telehealth to improve how we care for patients.”

Pictured are Local community nurses and student nurses are pictured with the new digital pens outside Stornoway Health Centre.