County Durham and Tees Valley Strategic Health Authority (CDTV SHA) has signed a contract with CSW to use its CaseNotes product to link together the information contained in the pathology systems locally.  The aim is to reduce inefficiencies and improve access of information to clinicians.

The contract, brokered through the local Clinical Network of Pathology services (TeesPath), has the support of County Durham and Tees Valley’s local programme for IT (LPfIT) Programme Board.  Accenture as LSP for the North-East cluster has approved the project as part of its ‘proof of concept’ portfolio.

In the first phase of the project, which is scheduled to last three months, the focus will be on linking together the pathology labs at the two local acute hospitals: South Tees Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust. 

Using CSW’s XML-based e-records product Case Notes, the project will provide electronic interchange of requests and results between the laboratories using Anglia Healthcare Systems middleware to enable better redeployment of the workload of pathology laboratories.

Dave Bottoms, TeesPath IT projects manager, told E-health Insider that the project formed part of a wider reconfiguration of pathology services locally, which will see more specialisation from individual pathology departments. Immunology for instance is to be centralised at one department.

"We don’t want to wind up in a position where lots of extra bits of paper are winging their way backwards and forwards between departments."  

The second part of the project will focus on improving the quality of requests and increasing use of the NHS number, particularly in test requests from primary care.  Bottoms said that although the use of the NHS Number is improving in hospitals it remained very low in pathology test requests from primary care "It’s currently less than one per cent."

The project will provide a single web-enabled pathology results database available across the whole of County Durham and the Tees Valley. This will permit any authorised clinician to view an integrated patient result file from anywhere in the area regardless of where the testing took place and where the clinician is located.

"The initial aim of the project is automatic requests and reports into and out of the lab systems," Dave Nurse, technical director at CSW, told E-Health Insider.  

"The main business issues it will solve are data quality and the efficient exchange of, and request for, reports between pathology labs," said Nurse.  He added that with pathology labs becoming increasingly specialised there was a lot more communication and requests for tests between them, which currently often involved a lot of duplication and rekeying of information.

Nurse added: "It’s a good example of implementing infrastructure that fits alongside what the national programme is delivering with the NHS Care Records Service."  Based on a central repository the system will use patient’s NHS Number as the main unique identifier.

Bottoms said that Accenture, the local LSP, had given the green light to the project proceeding and indicated that it would not clash with anything they planned to put in over the next four to five years under the NPfIT.  "NPfIT made clear that pathology was not in the first five-year plan except as an additional service."

John Chelsom, managing director of CSW Group said. “We welcome this opportunity to demonstrate the strategic and clinical benefits of Case Notes in a pathology setting.”

Bottoms said. “When we get the systems operational it will provide real clinical benefits particularly in areas where there is referred patient care such as cancer and I hope this model could then be utilised on a wider plane to link to other pathology networks in the medium to long term and ultimately provide a potential feed to the National Spine in due course”.

Andrew Thompson, chief information officer for CDTV SHA, added, “I’m very pleased that this project is going ahead. It shows how there can be a balance between local innovation and strategic development with our LSP. It will bring early benefits for clinicians participating in Clinical Networks across the SHA area.”