As founder and Managing Director of TBG Solutions, a specialist engineering company, in 2017 I was approached by Professor Derek Burke, Medical Director of Sheffield Children’s Hospital, to see if we could help the hospital with a problem.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust were in the process of building a new wing for the hospital. This new wing meant that there would be more single-bed rooms for patients, which is great for privacy and dignity for patients, but the management team were concerned that staff might not hear alarms from bedside monitors, with so many rooms and shut doors.
I could see their point. This is a fabulous new development for the hospital, but by bringing in new wards and facilities the hospital didn’t want to compromise on patient safety. I agreed that my team from TBG Solutions would work with the team from Sheffield Children’s Hospital to find a solution for this problem.
Working closely with Professor Burke and Susan Ievers, Clinical Nurse Matron, we explored current available options. Currently there is only one option buy equipment from the same manufacturer and use their dashboard and notification system. This is expensive, and means replacing many current devices.
What the hospital needed was a system that worked with any device, from any manufacturer as long as it made an audible alarm. So, that was our challenge.
I am very fortunate to have a great team of highly skilled engineers at TBG Solutions, and the idea that we could be helping children to stay safe and get the best possible medical care really motivated everyone involved. It was also a big change for the TBG team, as we are usually working on defense projects.
Firstly, we had to design a system that could listen for and identify individual alarms. To begin with there was some trial and error but working with the fantastic staff at Sheffield Children’s Hospital meant that we could work our way over various hurdles as they arose, and soon created a database of sounds for all of the medical devices used on the ward. Further work went into screening out background noise to prevent this interfering with alarm recognition.
A database is all well and good, but this project was all about getting nurses to patient rooms when there is a clinical need. For this we designed and created a Bedside Monitor, Nurse Console, Sounder and 4G modem.
The bedside monitor is attached to the wall near the patient’s bed and listens for alarms. The nurse console displays which room(s) have alarms sounding, which device is alarming, and what the alarm signifies. It also lets staff know if the listening monitor in the room has been disconnected.
We thought that it was really important that any audible relay of information shouldn’t add to the risk of too many alarms being heard by nurses (which can lead to alarm fatigue where the ear hears, but the mind doesn’t register). For this reason, our sounders relay audible information by human voice.
This meant that we had a system for hearing and prompting nurses to respond, but how would we know it was working? Response to alarms is not something that hospitals record or measure, so we were in the process of setting new standards for patient care. Our solution was to create an online dashboard and reporting system, which records, and reports alarms emitted and time to respond.
The results we have seen at Sheffield Children’s Hospital were so impressive they purchased BEAMS and recently renewed their contract. During a recent visit we were told that they couldn’t manage without BEAMs, and that their average response time for alarms is now down to 40 seconds.
We are all very proud of what has been achieved working with the staff at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Following this success I founded TUTUM Medical with the aim to achieve the same benefits for patients and staff at other hospitals across the UK.