Traditional methods of keeping track of case notes have been overhauled at Walsall Manor Hospital in favour of a new electronic tracking system.

It is hoped the new technology will cut the number of missing files, reduce the amount of time staff spend hunting for them and prevent the rescheduling of patient appointments.

The£220,000 radio frequency identification tag facility, which has been used in libraries in the US, could dramatically reduce the number of notes that are not available when needed.

While the current card facility relies heavily on staff remembering to make a call to health records, the new system uses special pads and electronic tags that are placed in the back of patient case notes.

Teams have already tagged more than 22,000 patient notes and all staff who are responsible for handling notes have been trained to use the new software. It is thought that eventually the number of case notes tagged will exceed six figures.

The system was developed in the US by 3M and introduced to the hospital by MCP Systems Consultants.

Hi-tech advantages

The detection system installed at the trust as part of the project notes the location of each record every time it is logged via the special pad.

Bundles of notes up to 12 inches high can be logged in or out at the same time and special credit card sized location tags enable quick and easy entry of the destination to which files are being sent.

A hand-held device allows staff to find case notes quickly and easily. When the device is run over tagged case notes, it emits a sound when the correct notes are located.

Divisional director of planned care Gareth Robinson said: "This new tracking system for notes is going to be fantastic for staff who spend a lot of time trying to find patient case notes. This will free up their time to spend on other areas of their role. We hope this system is going to keep a more watchful eye on notes and reduce the amount that are inaccessible when staff really need them."

For more on Walsall Manor Hospital and its electronic tracking system, see www.walsallhospitals.nhs.uk andsolutions.3m.com

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