This article profiles Dr Michael Brooks’ efforts to digitise the patient record and prevent unnecessary harm and death to patients
After witnessing several patients being harmed, and even dying, due to the loss of patient records during his career, Dr Michael Brooks decided he wanted to change the system and help save lives.
During his early childhood he was fascinated by technology, and after heading to Cambridge University and becoming a doctor, he soon found that technology could be used to drastically improve many issues in the healthcare industry.
During his career he witnessed multiple occasions where patients were harmed as a result of paper patient records being misplaced.
But it was a pivotal case in 2011 that spurred him on to make a change.
“I was working in a large hospital in the neurosurgery department and had been assigned to a patient with a subarachnoid haemorrhage – where bleeding occurs around the lining of the brain”, he explains.
I just hope that more and more healthcare organisations take PatientSource on board to stop the horrendous number of preventable deaths and harm to patients
“After conducting a CT scan on the patient, the results were unclear, and a more-detailed and invasive test was needed- a Digital Subtraction Angiogram.
“This test comes with a 1% chance of causing a stroke in the patient, so requires the patient’s consent.”
The angiogram procedure went ahead with the patient’s consent and the X-ray images were captured, as is the common practice, so the radiologist could write down his report after watching the video back.
“Two days later, the consultant asked for the results,” recalls Brooks.
Dr Michael Brooks devised PatientSource after witnessing first hand the risk to patients
“I opened the patient’s folder and found an empty paperclip. I spent two hours searching the hospital to try and find the missing notes.
“In desperation I tried to find the original analogue tape that had the video of the angiogram, so I could rewrite the notes from that. But nobody knew which tape it was and the radiologist who performed the procedure was away all week.
“By this time, I was panicking and dreading going back to the consultant. I was expecting to be told off, but instead the consultant said, ‘oh well we’ll have to redo the test’.”
The following day the test was repeated, despite the health risks, but this time when the patient returned to the ward he rapidly developed a weakness in his right arm and lost the ability to speak. The patient had had a stroke.
I knew I couldn’t sit back and watch this happen any longer and practise as a doctor without doing something about it
“I watched a 50-year-old academic go from being otherwise fine apart from a headache, to being mute and in a wheelchair because of something we had done,” said Brooks.
“I knew I couldn’t sit back and watch this happen any longer and practise as a doctor without doing something about it.”
Following this traumatic incident, Brooks raised the issue yet again with management, but the response was always the same ‘stop trying to make trouble’ and the matter was brushed under the carpet.
It was at this point that he made the decision to give up medicine.
“My parents were disappointed with my decision at first, but it was a dangerous and broken system I no longer wanted to be a part of”, he said.
Instead, he decided to find a solution to the broken system and built a user-friendly electronic patient record (EPR) system that doctors and nurses would want to use - a solution that would conquer all the issues he had witnessed as a doctor.
Getting the solution into NHS trusts was no easy feat for the team
He said: “I’d been in education for 19 years, six of which were in a highly-regarded medical school. I’d taught myself how to programme, I’d watched the web grow, and knew what it could do for the medical world - and now was the time to do something about it.
“I looked around at what was available on the market at the time, which were overpriced American EPR solutions purely focused on making money. They weren’t patient focused and certainly weren’t user friendly.”
There is no need for healthcare organisations to still be using paper with so much remarkable technology available
Brooks produced an early prototype to see how his idea could work and assembled a small team of software engineers together, including co-founder Philip Ashworth, who studied medical physics at Cambridge University.
“We thought we could knock on doors of hospitals, get them to try out PatientSource, they would love it, and they would buy it”, he said.
“But we were wrong. Instead hospitals would put out tenders and larger organisations who were NHS accredited would only be considered. Hospitals didn’t want to try a new system.”
After years of contacting healthcare organisations and applying, unsuccessfully, seven times for government grants; PatientSource finally secured its first NHS deployment.
A manager at James Paget University Hospital in Norfolk was trying out a new idea - an ambulatory care service, which allowed patients to receive treatment and leave the same day. And the hospital required an improved system and digital solution.
This was a revolutionary moment for Brooks and his team. He had finally got his NHS flying colours and a long-term client.
From that day on, more and more healthcare organisations were willing to listen and learn about PatientSource, and the brand began to attract interest within the UK and from overseas as a more-effective and affordable alternative to existing systems.
“PatientSource is an innovative system”, said Brooks.
“Before this level of technology existed, doctors and nurses were not able to look through notes instantly with patients’ records, previous history, photos and everything they needed.
“Now PatientSource enables them to do that even right at the side of their patients’ bed on an iPad.”
He added: “It’s taken a long time in development, and an even longer time to begin breaking through into the NHS.
“I just hope that more and more healthcare organisations take PatientSource on board to stop the horrendous number of preventable deaths and harm to patients.
“There is no need for healthcare organisations to still be using paper with so much remarkable technology available.”
PatientSource is an Electronic Patient Record (EPR) solution which works on tablets, laptops, desktops without needing installation.
It is cloud-based, and hugely reliable as it is automatically backed up.
It is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assist diagnosis and detect deterioration and forecast resource usage.