Patient record plan 'benefits all'
A £9 million system to modernise patients' records in Northern Ireland will be available to all by next April, the health minister said.
The Electronic Care Record (ECR) programme will enable doctors to access and cross-reference all information held in the health service about a particular individual. At present data can be kept in numerous different places.
Minister Edwin Poots said: "This new system will benefit everyone in Northern Ireland. The ECR provides the ability to securely access and share existing information across the HSC (Health and Social Care service). It has the potential to vastly improve the quality, speed, safety and clinical outcomes for patients and service users.
"ECR will help cut down on time spent searching for appropriate records, allowing clinicians more time to spend treating patients. It will be rolled out across the HSC streamlining the process."
At present records can be kept in various places, including accident and emergency, laboratory, radiology and many other information systems.
A pilot involving 9,000 patients at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, the Belfast City Hospital and two general practices was successful.
Dr Jimmy Courtney, a GP at Priory Surgery in Holywood, said: "My patients often come to see me after they've had a stay in hospital - with the ECR I have all the information about what's happened to them at my fingertips and don't have to wait for the hospital discharge letter before I can give the patient the explanations, reassurance or treatment that they have come for. This is good news for patients."
Gillian Waterworth, a patient who attends the Ulster Hospital, said: "It's great being able to view my records on my consultant's computer when I attend clinics. I have to see a few different doctors and now they can all see what's going on with me, and I don't need to run around getting results on paper from my GP or sitting for hours at clinics because my notes are still with the last doctor I saw."
Maeve Hully, chief executive of the Patient and Client Council, said: "We welcome this sensible development which reflects what people want and expect. It will avoid the need for people to tell their story many times to health care staff."
The contract with Orion Health has an approximate value of £9 million over the next seven years. It is expected that every health trust will have access to the system by April 2013.