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Modified Early Warning System (MEWS)

Modified Early Warning System (MEWS)

What is the Modified Early Warning System?

MEWS is an updated version of vital signs tracking. It gives your healthcare team a “snapshot” of your current condition.

Checking your vital signs is a routine part of any hospital stay. Tracking key information (like your temperature and heart rate) over time gives your nurses and doctors a quick look of how you’re doing during your hospital stay. Vital signs awareness systems and tracking has been used in hospitals for many years. MEWS gives a score to multiple vital signs and creates a total score instead of being based on a single value. Small changes can be picked up more quickly and your healthcare team is able to take action sooner if they need to.

What does the MEWS score do?

By itself, the score doesn’t do anything. Nurses and doctors are the experts in your care. They’ll act on the information they get from MEWS.

The scoring ranges help show how sick you are. This helps guide the actions of your healthcare team. It also gives them a tool to better talk to and communicate with each other about changes they see.

The MEWS categories include:

  • stable
  • watcher
  • unstable

To make decisions about your care plan your healthcare team uses:

  • information from your MEWS score
  • what they know about you and your specific situation
  • input from you and your family or caregivers

For example, a change in score could cause your healthcare team to review what medicines you’re on or may need. They may also add more treatments or therapy to your care plan. Your healthcare team develops their response to meet your specific needs.

What does it mean if I have a high score?

Sometimes a high score is normal. There are some areas of the hospital where you’d expect people to have high Early Warning System (EWS) scores.

For example:

  • If you just came out of surgery, we know that your EWS score would be high. In that case a high EWS score is normal.
  • Some people have pre-existing conditions that will give them a higher score to start than others. This would be considered normal for that person.

A change from your baseline score is what your healthcare team will watch for. To make sure that you’re safe it may be necessary to check vital signs even if you’re sleeping. Talk to your healthcare team if you have any questions about this.

Has MEWS been used before?

Many hospital healthcare teams have been using this kind of tool for a long time. It’s used as a way to help them make decisions and plan for each person’s care. The MEWS is a new way of showing helpful information so your healthcare team can see and respond more quickly to changes.

Many hospitals and care facilities have used paper-based systems to track information over the course of a day. This helped show patterns in a person’s information. The new MEWS system is the electronic version based on those paper systems. It’s been in use at other hospitals with good results.

When and where is my score seen?

The MEWS score can be seen when a nurse or healthcare provider opens your chart on the computer while you’re in hospital. This information is not shown in your personal health record.

The MEWS score is a helpful guide for your healthcare team and is only a single part of your entire health assessment. How you look and feel, along with all the other clinical information about you, gives the best picture of how you’re doing.

If you’re worried or have questions, ask a healthcare team member involved in your care to talk with you about your score.

Current as of: September 24, 2019

Author: Early Warning Scores Group - Alberta Health Services