St James’s Hospital goes digital with electronic patient record

Hospital says system will be more efficient for patients and help reduce waiting times

Miriam Roche, project manager for the electronic patient record, and Dr Gráinne Courtney, chief clinical information officer,  with one of the hospital’s new portable EPR trolleys. Photograph: Dave Meehan/ The Irish Times

Miriam Roche, project manager for the electronic patient record, and Dr Gráinne Courtney, chief clinical information officer, with one of the hospital’s new portable EPR trolleys. Photograph: Dave Meehan/ The Irish Times

 

St James’s Hospital in Dublin, the largest acute hospital in the State, has gone digital with a new electronic patient record (EPR) which it expects will enhance patient safety and help cut waiting times.

All inpatient records are now accessible via an electronic system rather than on paper, with details of patients’ medication and prescriptions, allergies, health conditions, treatments and social care information all in one place.

The hospital says it is the largest-scale digitisation of inpatient records in an Irish hospital to date.

Every inpatient speciality and department changed to the new system over the weekend. The transition to the EPR has involved the training of 2,400 staff members over 21,000 hours.

Dubbed “Project Oak” as a reference to the paper that will be saved, a multi-disciplinary team has spent nearly three years planning for the switch to digital.

This included training staff on how to use the Cerner Millennium system and electronic record stations, testing the system and trials on the wards.

The hospital said those attending as inpatients could expect “a more efficient experience as the new system brings a raft of benefits”.

“Patients will no longer have to repeat the same details when receiving care, with test results and diagnoses being shared faster between hospital departments. By having quicker access to records, including any prescriptions or allergies, hospital staff will be able to provide more effective care,” it said in its announcement on Tuesday.

“Each patient’s EPR will include medical and nursing assessments, medical history, medications, allergies, laboratory test results, radiology images, and more. The record can also include details of social care interactions and information about a patient’s living conditions.”

New phase of healthcare

Chief executive of the hospital Lorcan Birthistle said it was a “landmark development”.

“We are entering a new phase of healthcare in St James’s and in Ireland, and we are determined that our patients will benefit from these advances in technology,” he said.

Chief clinical information officer Dr Gráinne Courtney said: “We are in the early stages of the launch, but careful planning has ensured that patient care has not been disrupted significantly over the weekend.

“The implementation of this system is set to bring a raft of benefits to patients attending the hospital as health records are available instantly to those caring for a patient. Increased efficiencies mean patients will wait less time for their diagnoses, treatments and care. Over the course of the coming months and years, we anticipate this will translate into shorter wait times and hospital stays.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris announced a €225 million investment by the European Investment Bank in the State’s ehealth programme at St James’s Hospital on Friday.

The hospital received significant funding and support from the HSE for the project, which it estimates will cost between €5 million and €10 million.

St James’s confirmed it did not consult the Data Protection Commission in relation to the project, but said it had conducted a privacy impact assessment and had people on site managing data protection issues.