Early warnings will help save more lives

Portrait of child patient receiving artificial ventilation in hospital
Portrait of child patient receiving artificial ventilation in hospital

Lancaster University is part of a research study using electronic hand held devices which record patients’ vital signs as an early warning system for children.

Staff at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool are currently using the electronic devices to record breathing rate, effort of breathing, oxygen saturation, oxygen requirement, heart rate, blood pressure, capillary refill time, temperature and nurse or parental concerns.

The recorded data will automatically calculate an age-specific paediatric early warning score (PEWS), which categorises the risk of developing serious illness into low, medium, high or critical.

These scores and signs suggestive of sepsis are automatically flagged to staff to help them recognise the 
early signs of deterioration, with a view to reducing emergency admissions to critical care. The DETECT study (Dynamic Electronic Tracking and Escalation) to reduce Critical Care Transfers has been funded by a £1.25m grant awarded by the National Institute for Health Research Invention for Innovation Programme (NIHR i4i).

It is a collaborative study involving partners from the University of Liverpool, Edge Hill University, Lancaster University and the healthcare IT company System C. Professor Céu Mateus from Lancaster University said: “This is a great opportunity to assess the cost-effectiveness of digital technologies which are being used more often in the delivery of health care.

“The economic evaluation of digital technologies is a growing and challenging field and we are very excited to contribute to improving outcomes and resource allocation within the NHS.”

Automated alerts are sent about the sickest children and concerns can be escalated direct to the clinical team, without the nurse leaving the patient’s bedside.