Ayrshire and Arran Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is leading the development of hospital e-prescribing in the Scottish NHS. One of the key issues they have faced is finding the right device to enable staff to enter and call up prescribing details on the wards and by the patient bedside.

"We’ve had e-prescribing for the past four years but it’s only in the past year that we’ve extended it to all nine medical wards," James Snell, principal pharmacist for e-prescribing told E-Health Insider.

“We are proving the concept and feasibility of e-prescribing,” added Mr Snell. "Ayr has proven that paper prescribing records can be safely ditched and replaced with electronic records." Proven benefits shown by Ayr have included a three percent reduction in administration errors.

Laptops had been the main device used on the wards, but have suffered from wear and tear. "Laptops aren’t tough enough for our needs, and we had a very high failure rate" said Mr Snell.

Problems encountered included drops, knocks, the need to plug them in to connect to the hospital’s information network and the fact that they took up to five minutes to boot up after switch on.

"The fact was that the laptops on the drugs trolleys just didn’t stand up too well," said Mr Snell

Over the past month they have been testing a robust new tablet-style PC provided by Panasonic called the Toughbook, designed to withstand the rigours of a busy hospital environment.

The Toughbook comes with a GPRS connection enabling it to be linked into the hospital IT network, enabling information to be easily added or called up from the hospital’s clinical and patient administration systems. The trust is currently running the JC Pharmacy and prescribing system on the device.

"The Toughbook has a very strong case and you can drop it onto the floor, though we’ve not tried this yet," said Mr Snell. He added that unlike the laptops the tablet-style device powers up very quickly and can be easily carried around and used by hospital staff.

One concern is that while laptops were tied to the drugs trolleys is that the Tablet devices may prove easier to take away or be stolen.

Based on the success of e-prescribing on the wireless-linked Toughbook the trust is now making further clinical and patient administration applications available including labs results and access to the hospital patient management system.

"The new device has made these systems a lot easier for doctors to use," concluded Mr Snell.