Designing paper-based records to improve the quality of nursing documentation in hospitals: a scoping review

Naomi Muinga, Ibukun-Oluwa Omolade Abejirinde, Chris Paton, Mike English, Marjolein Zweekhorst

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review

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Background Inpatient nursing documentation facilitates multi-disciplinary team care and tracking of patient progress. In both high- and low- and middle-income settings, it is largely paper-based and may be used as a template for electronic medical records. However, there is limited evidence on how they have been developed.

Objective To synthesise evidence on how paper-based nursing records have been developed and implemented in inpatient settings to support documentation of nursing care.

Design A scoping review guided by the Arksey and O'Malley framework and reported using PRISMA-ScR guidelines.

Eligibility criteria We included studies that described the process of designing paper-based inpatient records and excluded those focussing on electronic records. Included studies were published in English up to October 2019.

Sources of evidence PubMed, CINAHL, Web of Science and Cochrane supplemented by free-text searches on Google Scholar and snowballing the reference sections of included papers.

Results 12 studies met the eligibility criteria. We extracted data on study characteristics, the development process and outcomes related to documentation of inpatient care. Studies reviewed followed a process of problem identification, literature review, chart (re)design, piloting, implementation and evaluation but varied in their execution of each step. All studies except one reported a positive change in inpatient documentation or the adoption of charts amid various challenges.

Conclusions The approaches used seemed to work for each of the studies but could be strengthened by following a systematic process. Human-centred Design provides a clear process that prioritises the healthcare professional's needs and their context to deliver a usable product. Problems with the chart could be addressed during the design phase rather than during implementation, thereby promoting chart ownership and uptake since users are involved throughout the design. This will translate to better documentation of inpatient care thus facilitating better patient tracking, improved team communication and better patient outcomes.

Relevance to clinical practice Paper-based charts should be designed in a systematic and clear process that considers patient's and healthcare professional's needs contributing to improved uptake of charts and therefore better documentation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15545
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)56-71
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • charting
  • documentation
  • inpatient
  • nursing records
  • observation charts
  • paper
  • review


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