Like many healthcare organisations, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust is moving towards the paperless, digital future set out by the Department for Health.
With millions of patient notes and medical images to transfer to digital storage, the idea of also digitising legacy case notes might sound like a near impossible task. But Royal Free London is doing just that – scanning 2.5 million images a week – with the aid of OpenText’s Content Suite platform.
Will Smart, director of information management and technology at the Royal Free, told Computing the reason for selecting OpenText was usability, with an easy-to-navigate interface for accessing case notes seen as key.
“Our desire has been to try and make the user interface as easy to use as paper. Clinicians need to get to key data within the case notes as quickly as possible and therefore we need to make it as easy as possible to navigate,” he said. “Every clinician will need to use the system and operate in a different way to get key data.”
Smart described how the electronic document and records management project [EDRM] brings a number of benefits, not only to staff, but ultimately to the patients they treat, not least because documents will no longer need to be physically transported between the Trust’s three sites.
“The EDRM is going to offer the opportunity to be much more flexible around how we can provide care,” he said. “Moving paper large distances around North London wasn’t a simple or cheap exercise. EDRM gives us the opportunity to do that at the speed of light and in real time.”
Naturally, the shift to a digital solution will bring cost-savings when it comes to paper storage and transport, with Smart describing the business case – EDRM “more than pays for itself” – as “positive over the 10-year planning horizon”.
Of course, cost-saving isn’t the key benefit for the NHS Trust: “Clinicians will have data when and where they need it at the point of care, that’s a day one benefit,” said Smart, who added that OpenText can be used to display data on a variety of devices.
“In terms of access, it’s via desktops and mobile devices. That will include specific clinical tablet devices as well as the ability to log on via iPads. We want the ability to make accessing the records in terms of UI and the ability to have the infrastructure in place to do it as simple as possible,” he said.
Ultimately, it’s Royal Free London patients who’ll benefit from this shift towards digital case files, because the doctors and nurses will always have the information they need about previous and current treatments at hand.
“For patients it’ll mean safer care,” Smart told Computing. “Clinicians will have their patient history when they come into the hospital and will be taking decisions based on all the information we have about them, so it will lead to improved safety and there will be benefits around patient experience.”
Smart also described how the switch to digital records means that patient appointments will no longer be cancelled because the paperwork containing their files can’t be found.
“If case notes aren’t available, sometimes we have to unfortunately cancel appointments or operations, so having the case notes digitised means that won’t happen and the case notes will always be available,” he said.
All NHS patient data has to be stored securely, which previously meant the files were physically locked away. But despite now moving to a digital format, Smart insisted patient records will be as secure as ever.
“The case notes will only be available within our campus, they’re being held securely and won’t be shared outside the organisation in exactly the same way as the paper notes,” he said.
The benefits of OpenText’s Content Suite are not limited to the storage and access of digital files.
“We aim to use some of the more advanced [analytic] capabilities within the solution to search across files in terms of research, searching for similar cases,” said Smart. “There are real opportunities for pulling that data into a single repository then being able to analyse and mine the data within the case notes,” he said.