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Eliminating Errors in Vital Signs Documentation


CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing: September 2013 - Volume 31 - Issue 9 - p 422–427
doi: 10.1097/01.NCN.0000432125.61526.27
Continuing Education

This study compared two methods of documenting vital signs: a traditional method where staff wrote vital signs on paper then keyed into an electronic medical record and a wireless system that downloaded vital signs directly into an electronic medical record. The study design was pretest and posttest. Sixty-four sets of vital signs were evaluated prior to the implementation of a wireless download system and 66 sets of vital signs were evaluated after. To compare the error rates for the two methods, χ 2 tests were used, and t tests were used to compare the elapsed time. Questionnaires relating to the clinicians’ experiences were analyzed qualitatively. The paper vital signs recording had an error rate of 18.75% and the wireless system has an error rate of 0% (P < .001). The mean (SD) elapsed time from when the vital signs were taken until they were available in the electronic medical record was 38.53 (32.87) minutes for the paper method and 5.06 (6.59) minutes for the wireless method (P < .001). The electronic vital signs documentation system resulted in significantly fewer errors and shorter elapsed time when compared with the paper system.

Author Affiliations: St. Joseph Hospital, Nashua (Dr Fieler); Exeter Hospital, New Hampshire (Mr Jaglowski and Dr Richards).

Welch Allyn provided the necessary equipment to conduct the study and funding for the independent statistician with a monetary value of $74 000.

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationship with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

Corresponding author: Karen Richards, DNP, RN, NE-BC, Exeter Hospital, 5 Alumni Drive, Exeter, NH 03833 (

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.