Using laptops or tablets instead of paper during hospital ward rounds could save each doctor almost an hour a day, research suggests.

Medics at Birmingham Women’s Hospital’s neonatal unit were spending around 56 per cent of ward round time filling out paperwork, but this was reduced to around 41 per cent after they adopted technology developed by a junior doctor.

Dr Sarah Steadman re-programmed a laptop to copy across patient data to the ward round paperwork which could then be added to on the computer before being wirelessly printed and included in the patient notes.

This also helped tackle a problem of nurses and other staff struggling to read handwritten notes. Historical audit data suggested 68 per cent of medics’ notes on the units were legible but this rose to 100 per cent during the trial.

Following an initial pilot in March last year ward rounds on the on the intensive care and high dependency wards were reduced from an average of four hours and 58 minutes to four hours and one minute, a saving of 57 minutes for each doctor.

The study concluded: “Use of a low-cost, home-built, unified electronic ward round and handover solution demonstrated a significant reduction in average ward length while simultaneously improving documentation and handover standards.”

“Based on the 57-minute average time-saving, for four members of staff per day, we estimate our system is saving the department over 24 hours of doctor time per week, which is time we can use to improve parent communication, staff education and training and to improve standards of care in other areas.”

Dr Steadman is now in talks with the West Midlands regional hub of NHS Innovations, or MidTech, to spread the idea across the wider NHS.

She told HSJ: “Our ward rounds would easily last until 3pm and we were all frustrated about it. I raised my head above the parapet and suggested we do something.

“The nurses thought it was amazing because they didn’t have to read the doctors handwriting anymore and we were saving that time because we weren’t having to copying everything by hand.”

Dr Steadman said there was “inertia” in the NHS to developing new projects adding: “There were a lot of staff who were sceptical and the NHS is set in its ways. I believe the system we developed could be of benefit to everywhere that does an in-patient ward round.”

The project is being presented at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s annual conference in Birmingham this week.