The company’s pioneering GP2GP workflow software transferred the full medical record from the Whickam Heath Centre practice to the Chainbridge House practice, both in Gateshead on Tyneside, via the NHS spine.
The live transfer - the first in a national NHS Connecting for Health pilot scheme in the Gateshead area - realises a long-held dream of GPs to send patient records electronically between surgeries.
With electronic transfer, the complete patient record is transferred directly to the new surgery’s computer system, rather than being sent in paper format and then re-input manually. The new system will dramatically speed up the process, which can currently take up to six weeks, and should also make records more accurate.
It will also save the NHS money; EMIS estimates the electronic process could save GP practices around £16 million worth of administrative time annually*.
“Today’s achievement marks an important step towards giving GPs what they have wanted for many years - the ability to transfer patient records quickly and efficiently using an electronic, not a paper-based system,” said Dr David Stables, co-founder and Clinical Director of EMIS. “We are delighted that this truly groundbreaking technology is now being tested live.”
Nine EMIS practices in the Gateshead Primary Care Trust area are taking part in the NHS Connecting for Health pilot, one of three nationally. The live testing of the software follows extensive work to develop and test the interoperability of EMIS’s existing GP2GP workflow software with the NHS spine, which acts as the message carrier.
There has also been widespread consultation with local GPs and practice staff, national GP representatives and staff from Gateshead Primary Care Trust and NHS Connecting for Health.
During the Gateshead pilot, patients moving between the nine practices will have their record transferred electronically, with the paper system operating in tandem as back up.
Dr Bill Westwood, a GP at the 6,000-patient Bewick Road Surgery in Gateshead and one of EMIS’s clinical advisors, said he thought GPs would be pleased with the new system.
He said: “I think by and large they are going to be delighted. And I think the admin staff are going to be over the moon! This development will mean that GPs can receive information in the form in which they are used to working with it - electronically - rather than having to convert a paper record into electronic form.
“The current process carries a risk of error, in the decisions made about what information to include in the new record and in the transcription process itself. The new system will make the process far safer and much quicker. The software is also relatively straightforward to use - I’ve been able to use it without any formal training.”
Andy Whitwam, Director of Support Services at EMIS, said the company’s GP2GP workflow software had undergone rigorous safety testing before and during the NHS pilot.
He said: “It is also surprisingly easy to use. In the trials you could almost see people thinking ‘is that all there is?’
“While the technical challenge involved in developing the software has been huge, on the surface you see almost nothing. In many cases, the software will automatically generate a request for a patient’s records without the user having to do anything at all.”
Dr Westwood added that the pilot scheme had raised questions about how GPs will work with electronic records in the future.
He said: “My personal opinion is that because you are going to be looking directly at someone’s record it will raise the question about the standard of record-keeping. Because your read codes, not just your text, will go across, I think it will start to create a need for very good standards in the codes you use and for consistency between GPs. Potentially there may even be a need for national standards.”
* based on an average saving of £2,800 per 10,000 patient GP practice.