QUALITY OUTCOMES AND PATIENT SAFETY
Vital Time Savings
Evaluating the Use of an Automated Vital Signs Documentation
System on a Medical/Surgical Unit
By Meg Meccariello; Dave Perkins; Loretta G. Quigley, RN, MS; Angie Rock, MBA,
CCRP; and Jiejing Qiu, MS
Vital signs documentation was the focus of this study,
because multiplication errors, transcription errors, illegible
results, late data entry, misidentification of the patient,
undocumented readings and missed readings can lead to
faulty data, as well as unnecessary and potentially dangerous
interventions or withholding of treatments. Technology is now
available to medical/surgical units that automate the vital
signs documentation process.
This study compared the accuracy and time efficiency
of manual-entry vital signs documentation with workflows
that use a data management system to automatically
transfer vital signs assessments from a bedside vital signs
device into the electronic medical record. The study found
that the automated vital signs documentation system was
more accurate than manual documentation and errors were
reduced by 75 percent. The wireless automated vital signs
documentation system saved time compared to manual
documentation: and combined vital-signs acquisition/
documentation times were reduced on average by 96
seconds per reading.
At Anywhere Hospital it is 7: 30 a.m. and the day shift is just beginning. Sue, a nurse’s aide, begins to collect patients’ vital sign
assessments. She starts with room 5106 and moves
through her assignment. She gathers the results
and writes them on her assignment sheet to be documented in the electronic medical record (EMR)
after she completes each of her five patients. Mr.
Couldbeu is in room 5108 by the window. Sue notes
that some of Mr. Couldbeu’s readings are above his
baseline, however the patient looks fine. She will
mention it to the charge nurse when she sees her.
Sue moves on to her next patient, but she is inter-
rupted by Joan, a nurse taking care of patients on
the other side of the unit. Sue is asked to help move
a patient on the other side of the unit to a chair.
At 7: 39 a.m. Mr. Couldbeu pushes his call button.
He has chest pain. The RN who answers his call
takes his vital signs, administers his medication
and checks the EMR to compare his current status
to his morning assessments. They have not been
charted and she cannot find Sue.
Vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respiration, oxygen saturation and temperature) are indicators of body system health. They
provide information on how patients are adapting to the changes
brought on by illness and disease. 1 Treatment decisions are routinely made subsequent to the assessment of vital signs, one of the
hallmarks of nursing care.