Buying an EPR System Won’t Save the NHS

By Tony Backhouse, Business Development Manager – Healthcare Division, SynApps Solutions

Last time we spoke, I started explaining why SynApps has expanded the functionality of our pioneering VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive), our system to help hospitals better handle their digital information (see ‘Saving the NHS – Let’s Start with Local Health IT’).

I also put that work in the context of recent NHS thinking on the central place of localised, useful health IT systems and how those local systems can be built from the ground up. This time, I want to put a bit more context around what we’ve done with VNA.

A term that I need to wheel out again to get us started is the EPR – the Electronic Patient Record. I hesitate a bit as the term has so much legacy, not all of it good, in the NHS (thinking about the National Programme for IT, of course – which failed to deliver a national EPR, despite all our best efforts.  The thing is, the concept of Electronic Patient Records is still a really good idea. It would be fantastic to centrally store, but easily access, your patient history and data wherever you needed it.

That’s especially true as we start to use more and more digital information and images in the NHS. Think about radiology images, MRI scans, output from an echocardiogram – they really all should be available in a true EPR. Plus there are lots of reasons clinicians might want to take pictures of you too, to record a specific injury on the night you were brought into A&E, or the progress of a bedsore.  Those images could be virtually and securely attached to all those images in your digital, e-patient folder.

So back to the true EPR. This is where it gets a bit complicated, as information in EPR Systems have structured, electronic file data that’s not that hard to store and work with (and there are some systems out there described as ‘EPRs’ which are okay at what they do). What about all the unstructured data, though? That’s the Images we have talked about, the GP notes, the letter or email he or she sent to your specialist two years ago – there’s a lot of information we’d like to collate and keep with you on that patient journey you’re making through the NHS, across your lifetime.

The reality is that a proper EPR is going to have to be able to manage huge amounts of both structured and unstructured, document and paper-based content. Most experts agree the ratio between unstructured (GP letter etc. digital image or sound file) data and structured is in the order or 80:20 – that’s to say, 80% is unstructured.

How does this connect back with what we have been doing at SynApps Solutions? Well, what we had with our great VNA archive was a brilliant way of helping you handle part of that 80% – the images from you PACS, RIS and Ophthalmology systems as well as those poorly filed Medical Photography files. But we needed to give you more. And that’s what the Clinical Content Store (CCS) offers – a way to deal with the rest of the 80%, the unstructured ‘eight tenths of the iceberg’ of that patient content you want to be able to work with as well as the inactive part of the 20% that is either Read Only or locked in departmental systems.

To do that, you’d really like to be to offer both a VNA and a proper clinical archive, an intelligent repository that will offer a way to access all the data you need, importantly, in tandem with your EPR System. You can work with that data in your team, by the way – but it will also allow it to be worked on by other organisations, giving the social care team, as well as other hospitals and primary care or mental health institutions that act as stations on that (lifelong) patient journey, access.

Best of, well, multiple worlds?

The great news is that the CCS pulls all this together. One, it helps you manage all your Read Only data. Two, it gives you a repository to start working with all your unstructured information, too.

But what is really exciting is that it goes beyond what an EPR currently does and links together all that great new content in a patient centric view for sharing both in and out of your hospital.

Just one extra data point to get you excited about CCS; one hospital that we work with is telling us that by using our system is going to save them at least one million pounds a year in not having to directly work with such legacy systems any more.

Maybe now you can see why I and the rest of the SynApps healthcare team are so excited about the Clinical Content Store and what we know it can do for Trusts.

Which is, building out of the EPR – but in a new way of working with all your patient data, in a way that doesn’t force you to compromise.

Now that is exciting!

We are currently offering a free consultative study to scope out the potential of CCS to meet your need, but be aware it is time-limited – so start talking to us today!

Please – take advantage of the seminar [] on Thursday 29th January at 12.30pm at the London Chamber of Commerce, EC4R 1AR, and find out more about the Clinical Content Store and how it can help you meet your EPR challenge.