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Options for the ITK "Get Document" interface

What would be your preferred way for ITK to specify the... More ›
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1. Messaging based (e.g. ITK-WS as per other ITK specs)
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2. Direct HTTP GET using a supplier defined URL in the notification
25% (1 votes)
3. Both of the above - I will choose which to use
50% (2 votes)
4. Neither of the above - I know a better way
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5. Not sure
25% (1 votes)

Digital Pens


The Digital Technology team examined the potential for the scaled up adotion of digital pens within Maternity as a small number of Trusts have already started to make use of this technology with strong benefits.

Current Situation in Maternity:

  • “Mothers Book” often the only complete record of the pregnancy, created as hard copy and held by the mother.
  • Maternity systems are often populated by re-keying data using a subset of information created whilst simultaneously completing the Mothers Book, a process which is prone to error

Use of Digital Pens will provide the following local benefits:

  • The digital pens allow an electronic record to be created at the point of capture.
    Improved data quality and record completeness
  • Productivity gains due to de-duplication of record keeping activities
  • Ease of deployment due to familiarity with pens
  • Better information on staff productivity

 The following Vision was developed to scope and frame the subsequent work:

Digital Pens for Maternity - Scope and Vision


To effect a step change in quality (completeness and accuracy) of maternity data currently captured on paper forms during consultations, by simultaneously and without additional effort making an electronic copy of the information written. Familiarity of pens and paper eases deployment whilst still capturing information electronically.

What is it: 

Digital Pens are normal ball-point pens with a built in camera which recognises a unique pattern of dots printed on the paper forms, and those unique patterns encode a digital replica of the written information The pens are connected via Bluetooth to a smart phone, from which the captured information is uploaded to the Digital Pen application  (server based).  The application interprets the encoded dots and pen movements, and using Optical Character Recognition re-creates a  digital facsimile of the written form.  There is the option to use predefined lexicons to specific fields on the form to further improve data quality.

The leap in the offer:

Information is captured electronically at the point of consultation, using existing business processes.  This eliminates the requirement for duplicate note taking and re-keying of data into computer systems, with the associated time, quality and completeness  benefits.

What will be done nationally:

  • Standardisation of minimum set of information on Paper Forms.
  • Interoperability Toolkit Standards to support flow of this minimum set of information between capture devices and clinical systems.
  • Implementation of CUI and ISB guidance for data entry and display.


The Benefits

This sections outline the different benefits that are possible from the 3 different types of digital pen deployment.

1. Standalone pens

  • Data captured once at the point of care
  • Data available to all clinicians involved in the pregnancy
  • No change to the consultation
  • More time available to provide face to face patient care – e.g. meet targets for 1st appointment booking for Maternity services
  • Digital data can be accessed from any PC (browser enabled); no need for a specific (location) PC to be used
  • Implement agreed protocols and datasets to support better, safer care
  • Minimal end user training thereby enabling rapid deployment
    Improved handover between care professionals e.g. Midwife to Health Visitor
  • Better management information to support resource planning and finance e.g. Commissioning datasets 

2. Standalone pens with enhanced application functionality

  • Eliminate reliance on non clinical staff for transcribing
  • Elimination of human error in transcribing
  • All data captured digitally; no subjective summarising

3. Application integrated with maternity systems

  • Eliminate the admin time spent transcribing paper records or digital facsimiles into  the medical systems
  • Patient data can be populated from other systems
  • A complete end to end view of the patients pregnancy shared by all clinicians involved in the pregnancy
  • Quality of Care benefit by all clinicians having holistic view of pregnancy

The following provides an overview of the finanical benefits estimated for a typical maternity scenario.

Main benefits realised from:

Rekeying saving by midwife and admin staff
Time saving efficiency of appointments

Equates to £1,235 per year benefit per deployed pen

Based on key input data:

  • 650,000 pregnancies per year
  • 260,000 first time pregnancies per year
  • 1st appointment duration 90 minutes
  • Subsequent appointment duration 15 minutes
  • Total meetings in the year per pregnancy 10
  • Total meetings in the year per 1st time pregnancy 13

More details can be found in the resources section where there is a copy of a presentation that provides details of the maternity process when supported by digital pens and a high level overview of the implementation approach.