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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

How electronic medical records are set to transform patient care at Maidstone NHS trust

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust director of IT Michael Beckett hopes that his team’s decision to select the Allscripts Sunrise clinical suite to create a full electronic patient record (EPR), will help the Trust to improve support for patients.

The Trust, which runs two major hospitals and is a regional cancer centre, already uses the Allscripts patient administration system (PAS), which it went live with in October last year. Beckett told NS Tech that the Trust had conversations with several EPR suppliers before selecting Allscripts, and found that the most logical route was to select Allscripts again.

“We would have been in a position where building upon the Allscripts PAS would have either proved problematic for the supplier or for the Trust to do. The majority of the suppliers we spoke to required us to either replace the PAS system that we had just put in or to have an additional PAS system on top of our existing PAS system – this would have gone against what we were trying to achieve in terms of cost and timescales,” he says.

The key objective, Beckett explains, was to support better patient care through better patient data supporting clinicians and enabling them to spend more time with their patients.

After demoing Allscripts Sunrise and other EPR products, and allowing clinicians to get a first-hand look at what each products offered.

Clinicians currently move between paper and IT systems to find the information they need, and the Allscripts EPR enabled them to capture and display data using one central record.

Beckett and his team used the feedback to opt for Allscripts Sunrise. The Trust has committed to roll out a full EPR, including order communications and test results, e-prescribing, clinical documents, and Sunrise Mobile Care. It will deploy Sunrise Emergency Care in its A&E department, and Sunrise Surgical Care in theatres.

Issues with integration?

When questioned about whether there was an issue with Allrise’s PAS interoperability with other vendor systems, Beckett suggested that it was more a case of PAS being in-built into other EPR products.

“If you’re trying to develop a fully integrated EPR solution it’s about the control and the ability to communicate between those pieces of functionality, so if you look at some of the other vendors, they’ve got the PAS functionality really in-built into their products, so then to say we’re going to take that information elsewhere – regardless of what the PAS system is – that will potentially not deliver the functionality you need,” he explains.

“The other question with the PAS system is commercially whether or not we want to build another PAS system up when we’ve been through the effort of doing the Allscripts one; I don’t think it’s a problem with ERP vendors or the PAS system, it’s more a nature of the beast and about how we structure this for functional requirements over the next ten years,” he adds.

The project of implementing Allscripts Sunrise has already begun, with the initial requirements of people, governance and mechanisms all signed off. The Trust aims to go live with the system in September next year.

The decision to go ahead with a new PAS and EPR system form part of a wider IT strategy which was signed off in October. Interestingly, Beckitt has seen through one of the most significant phases of the organisation in an interim role. He has been in the post since July 2017, and the Trust is already seeking a replace for a permanent IT director.

His experience is in major programme delivery – and although many may see an interim making crucial decisions on both vendors and implementation as high risk, Beckett explained that he was selected to do just that.

“The Trust was clear about the benefits of EPR from the chief executive to key clinicians there is a single vision that EPR is the right way forward for the organisation. So if I came in as an interim and suggested that the organisation needed EPR [then it would have been unusual], but this has been requested of me and I’ve done this kind of work in other interim roles at other Trusts,” he says.

He adds that there is no risk of having an interim IT director – particularly in Maidstone and Turnbridge Wells NHS Trust, where he has had the full backing of the board.

“I’ve worked with other Trusts where the level of engagement from the board hasn’t quite been there and this has really impressed me,” Beckitt says.

As for the future director of IT, Beckitt says that whoever does take up the role will be tasked with delivering EPR, while the Trust would also be keeping an eye out for the AI features that Allscripts are introducing in the months to come.