James Kippenberger of BigHand explores why healthcare organisations should focus on developing an EPR strategy, rather than a technology
Comment: EPR is a strategy, not a technology
With the widespread consensus that the movement towards electronic patient records (EPR) is a sensible direction of travel for the NHS, JAMES KIPPENBERGER, managing director of UK healthcare at BigHand, explores why organisations should focus on developing an EPR strategy, rather than a technology. Instead, of allowing EPR to become the ‘big IT project’, he says there are some manageable steps that can be taken to enable organisations to move steadily towards the final goal of a fully-connected integrated care system
There is widespread consensus that the movement towards EPR is a sensible direction of travel for the NHS.
The danger is that EPR becomes regarded as a large and complicated IT project, rather than a cultural shift in the NHS’s way of working that can deliver significant patient benefits
Giving health and care professionals the ability to access and share up-to-date patient information and correspondence will transform the delivery of care, integrate and accelerate care pathways and improve outcomes.
But, as local health organisations gear up to meet the national objective of enabling patient access to GP records by 2015, progress across the country is variable.
The danger is that EPR becomes regarded as a large and complicated IT project, rather than a cultural shift in the NHS’s way of working that can deliver significant patient benefits. In the process, the perceived size of the task ahead will inevitably become a barrier to progress. This need not be the case. There is much that NHS organisations can do now to pave the way towards the implementation of a functioning EPR – progress will be about taking incremental steps.
NHS organisations must focus on developing an EPR strategy rather than a technology. To progress, trusts need to outline the constituent parts of that strategy and identify the individual components that can be implemented quickly, easily and effectively. There are some manageable steps that can be taken that can prevent EPR from becoming the ‘big IT project’ that appeared too difficult to deliver, and can help organisations move steadily towards the final goal of a fully-connected integrated care system.
For EPR to deliver its potential and empower clinicians to make fully-informed decisions, patient information within the system must be accurate and up-to-date. As such, getting current data into the system must become a key area of focus. The challenge will be to make it as easy as possible for clinicians to input information. We will get nothing out of EPR if nobody puts anything into it.
If we really are to fulfil the obvious promise of EPR, NHS organisations must not risk failure by waiting for the ‘big IT project’ to happen.
Dictation systems can enable healthcare professionals to dictate information directly into an EPR in real time, allowing immediate and accurate access to patients’ vital signs and clinic correspondence, and significantly improving administrative efficiencies in the process. Such systems are readily available and easy to implement. They represent one of the simple, manageable steps that trusts can take as they move along the pathway towards EPR.
At present, there is evidence that clinicians at some trusts that have made the move towards digital dictation solutions are, in the absence of a reliable patient record system, intentionally dictating huge amounts of post-consultation information, so everything is documented in the clinic letter that goes to the GP. As a consequence, clinic letters are becoming comprehensive and lengthy documents, simply because there is no EPR to capture and optimise the information.
For those trusts outsourcing their transcription, this adds direct as well as indirect costs to the process.
If we really are to fulfil the obvious promise of EPR, NHS organisations must not risk failure by waiting for the ‘big IT project’ to happen. There are some quick wins that can help trusts move forward incrementally. EPR must be a strategy not a technology, and there are meaningful steps that can be taken right now.