The trial of the computerised Smart Ward patient system has yielded impressive results at two hospitals in Melbourne.
The system, which uses touch screens and smartchips in lanyards and wristbands to update patient information, was developed by Canberra tech guru Matt Darling.
He developed the system after observing hospital staff over a number of months while caring for his daughter, Jem, five years ago.
As he spent extended periods in the wards, Mr Darling saw how much time nurses spent filling out paperwork.
"What I came to realise was that nurses were spending a lot of their time on admin, and they were being, if you like, distracted from patient care," he told the ABC at Melbourne's Epworth Hospital.
"I guess the first stage of trying to come up with a solution is trying to understand why that is."
Mr Darling's time in hospital wards led him to map out the workday of nurses and create a time in motion study of their movement around their workplace.
He says there were a number of times when his daughter needed acute care and he believed he could pinpoint where the existing system was failing staff.
"She had a couple of really terrible events clinically that were ultimately very preventable and I guess my first reaction to that was to feel annoyed at the system [and] upset about what had happened to her," he said.
"But I guess it sort of gave me a sharp focus on what was actually happening.
"I really came to have an empathy and a respect for the people who were working there and a great deal of sympathy for how difficult the working conditions were.
"I really wanted to do something that was going to benefit them and through benefitting them, benefit patients as well."
As Mr Darling grieved for the loss of his young daughter he also wondered how he could help to make the hospital system run more efficiently.
It drove him to put his technical brain to practical use and develop Smart Ward.
"When you go through that sort of experience you need to cling onto the idea that something positive can come from it, and that's really important," Mr Darling said.
Smart Ward uses touch screens to update patient information in real time.
Nurses are linked into the system with a lanyard and patients are linked in by wearing wrist bands that transmit information.
A nurse can approach the system and log in to update a collection of information that is all stored on the system.
Smart Ward removes paperwork 'duplication'
Epworth Hospital executive director of healthcare services Louise O'Connor says the system helps simplify paperwork.
"What frustrates nurses is filling out multiple forms and not seeing anything happen with them," she said.
"Creating duplication where you might put a weight on one chart and you've then got to transcribe it on to four other charts, things like that frustrates clinicians at the bedside.
"So having this application, I think they will embrace [it] quite well because it actually improves their workflow, stops them being as reactive and enables them to practically manage a patient's care."
Initial results show the amount of time nurses spend away from patients is being cut down by at least 20 per cent.
Ms O'Connor says the system also helps to cut down errors.
"Now's the most important time to be looking at clinical risk and how we can manage that, because there isn't a plethora of money available to pay for the running of hospitals and things like that," she said.
"We know that there are hundreds of thousands of hospital-acquired infections every year across hospitals and they cost a lot of money, so we have a lot of responsibility I suppose to do everything we can to prevent those from happening.
"And this is where IT or clinical IT at the bedsides starts to really play an important role."
Technology attracts government grants, investors
Mari Botti is leading the clinical trials of Smart Ward. She is a professor of nursing at Melbourne's Deakin University in partnership with Epworth Healthcare.
"What this system can do is prompt nurses, remind them that there is care delivery that needs to happen, it can bring up prompts in relation to care pathways, it can activate emergency responses if that's necessary," she said.
"So there's a lot of potential quality and safety improvements that can be embedded as well."
So far, Smart Ward has been funded by government grants and private investors.
After more trials Mr Darling hopes Smart Ward will be part of a long-term hospital contract.
"We're basically looking for partners at this stage. Concurrently to that we'll keep on developing the system for deployment in forthcoming pilots that we're planning, so it's going to be a very busy period," he said.
Mr Darling is the ACT finalist for Australian of the Year.