Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Scotland, health experts are using a computer program that they believe can help fight superbug-related infections.
The ExtraMed Beds program allows can help monitor cases of diseases such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile, and may believably prove vital in managing serious superbug outbreaks by letting hospitals to track patients with infections.
AdvertisementIt has mainly been used to monitor bed availability and to allow staff to cope at times of high demand. However, the software is now being rolled out to help with infection control.
Experts believe that the novel software may turn out to be very useful in the case of a swine flu pandemic being declared.
Amid fears that a second wave of the infection may lead to a surge in hospital admissions in autumn and winter, the Scottish Government is looking at how the system could improve care and tackle bugs in hospitals.
The program uses a touch screen with a layout of each ward in the hospital. Patients' names and that of their doctor is displayed on a bed symbol on the screen, corresponding to their location.
It can also reveal information about where other beds are available, which may prove helpful in case a patient has to be moved.
The system flags up patients who have an infection, such as MRSA, C diff or flu, which could spread to others in the same ward.
Just in case a patient is diagnosed after being moved around the hospital, hospital staff can quickly see he/she has been, and assess whether others need to be checked for infection.
Patinets with a history of violent behavior can also be flagged up to make it easy for security staff to monitor their movements.
Irene Jessiman, senior operational support manager at NHS Grampian, said that if a patient was being moved to a different ward, staff in the central control room could see this and query if it was the right decision.
"It was not that our systems before were particularly poor, it's just that this has the potential to improve them and improve our tracking. With the new infection control module, we can quickly see patients who are at risk who are not in appropriate beds, and appropriate beds being used by patients who are not at risk," the Scotsman quoted her as saying.
According to her, the system might be invaluable in tracking swine flu infections, and managing the expected huge demand for beds.
"In the event of swine flu, you are looking to limit its spread as far as possible. You would protect beds in that area so as new cases arrive you can co-locate infectious patients," she said.
The touch screen-based system, which was launched last year, has also freed up the time staff previously spent filling in paper records and phoning other parts of the hospital to say where patients were going and when beds were empty.
Jessiman said that she would encourage other hospitals to adopt a similar system.
"I think everyone should have real-time information. With the pressures we have and the targets we have, and the expectations of our patients, it's not acceptable to not know at any time what you have on your site in terms of capacity," she said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon had seen the computer system at work.
"We are currently exploring the potential of the system to improve care and examining what benefits it can offer in tackling hospital infections," she said.