Paramedics at South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) are set to become the first to be able to alert other healthcare providers to a patient’s suspected or confirmed dementia with the push of a button.
It is hoped the innovation – which will see a special dementia button added to paramedics’ electronic devices – will ensure many more people receive the care they need when arriving at emergency departments or requiring other health and social care services.
It forms part of a new £40,000 project being delivered by SCAS in partnership with the Universities of Portsmouth and Southampton and funded by The Health Foundation Q Exchange programme to improve care for older people.
Dementia can impact on all aspects of a patient’s care, which means it is important that all staff are aware of a confirmed or suspected case.
However, when paramedics record a patient’s healthcare information on their electronic patient record (ePR) – a digital platform to collate and share medical information – there is currently no dedicated place to record dementia.
As they may be treating a patient for an injury or illness unrelated to dementia, the variety of places a dementia diagnosis can be listed within the ePR means it can be missed by subsequent healthcare providers reviewing the patient’s notes.
In collaboration with the two Hampshire universities, SCAS surveyed ambulance clinical staff on the subject and received overwhelming support for a designated button that would enable quick and clear recording of dementia.
“Older people have a high usage of emergency ambulance services and dementia is a common condition affecting older people who use health services, impacting on all aspects of their care”, said Helen Pocock, Senior Research Paramedic at SCAS and part of the study team.
“We found that dementia could have been recorded in 16 different free-text fields on the electronic patient record, making it difficult for accurate data retrieval by other staff referring to the record and potentially meaning those patients do not receive the tailored onward care they need.”
“It also means that, in cases where dementia may be suspected by paramedics, the attempt to highlight it to other healthcare providers may be ineffective.”
She added: “To combat this, the clinicians we talked to suggested that a designated button would enable systematic recording of dementia, facilitating transfer of this key information to other services.”
Dr Carole Fogg, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton and Project Lead, said:
“It is well-documented that people with dementia have poorer outcomes in hospital, so this innovation has the potential to enable them to receive the most appropriate care from emergency departments at the point of arrival or from referral services such as social care.”
For more information, visit Install and evaluate dementia button on ambulance electronic patient record. | Q Community (health.org.uk).