Health Service Focus

13.01.16

Electronic records to deliver ‘significant’ savings for Hampshire trusts

Source: NHE Jan/Feb 16

Adrian Byrne, IT director at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, explains how a new electronic patient record system is providing a firm footing for the future of healthcare in Southampton.

Three trusts in Hampshire could soon be saving more than £1m per year thanks to a new electronic health records system. The OnBase system, due to be operational by the end of 2016, will let clinicians share information electronically across University Hospital Southampton NHS FT (UHS), Solent NHS Trust and Southern Healthcare NHS FT. 

Adrian Byrne, director of information management and technology at UHS, told NHE the new system, funded primarily by NHS England, will “enhance continuity of care” while “reducing costs”. 

Funding support 

UHS, which has led the project, was granted £1.35m under the Second Round of NHS England’s Integrated Digital Care Technology Fund to procure and implement the new Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). 

Following an extensive review by doctors, nurses and midwives, OnBase by Hyland was selected to enable the trust to deliver paperless patient care by replacing paper forms with electronic ones, capturing externally-generated paper as it enters the trust and digitising its existing paper records. 

However, without extra financial support the business case was hard to get off the ground, said Byrne. “Therefore, the ‘Tech Fund’ as part of the NHS England investment in technology was an ideal catalyst within the programme. 

“We had chosen our preferred supplier for the venture before having the money confirmed. We were waiting to see if we could ‘press go’. Once the money was signed off, we still had to find more.”

The entire project cost, which will come in at just over £2m, has included subsequent funding from all three of the partners. But Byrne is confident that the system will deliver a significant return on investment. 

“We currently share a notes library with the two other organisations,” he said. “That is costing us more than £1m a year to run between us, which we will exit. Then there are the benefits in helping us move towards direct data capture and none of the transactional and transport costs of flying notes around the organisation.” 

A programme of scanning any remaining patient care paper documents is scheduled to be complete before the closure of the trust’s health records library in 2017. 

But there is a “complex” workload to get through before the system goes live, added Byrne. 

Mobile functions 

UHS provides services to about 1.9 million people in Southampton and south Hampshire, as well as specialist services to more than 3.7 million people across central southern England and the Channel Islands. 

As UHS has quite a mobile workforce, NHE asked how the system will work for those operating outside the trust’s network.  “We see there is a big future in displaying medical records on mobile device,” said Byrne. 

“This is a system that is hosted on servers. It will not, generally speaking, store data on either tablets or laptops and it will talk to the servers over encrypted network traffic – wherever that is appropriate. 

“There is a slight caveat, though. Sometimes we wish to use mobile devices where they are completely offline – where there is no network connection at all. If that is the case then clearly staff need to download a certain amount of information. We specified for a briefcase function in the OJEU, so that people can download lists of patients into an encrypted store on the device to be used offline – that can then be resynched.” 

While Byrne said he would always prefer there to be a network connection, the trust needed to set itself up for the chance that there wouldn’t be one – especially with people going “far and wide delivering care”. 

Clinical involvement 

UHS added that involvement with clinical staff at “every stage” of the process has been vital. 

“All of the groups have a high level of clinical buy-in to it,” said Byrne. “The steering group, which is chaired by our chief clinical information officer, is largely clinically led. It is absolutely critical that people are on board with this and they know where we are going and buy in to digital records. 

“This is not a project designed out of an IT office and then landed on the users.” 

Looking to the future, Byrne added that while the move from paper medical records to electronic records supports the government’s vision of a paperless NHS by 2020, it provides a “firm footing” for the future of healthcare in Southampton.

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