Barnsley District General Hospital (BDGH) has introduced a new smart-card authentication network, giving staff secure access to patient records, and, for the first time, e-mail from 300 flat-screen terminals on site.

The cards and screens are part of a £1m five-year deal with private technology firm Azzurri Communications, and replace the old ‘green screen’ VDUs.

“We have already seen a vast improvement in communication around the hospital and our staff have been able to get up to speed on the new system quickly and easily," says Janet Platt, clinical lead for electronic records development at the hospital.

The cards are similar to the new ‘chip and pin’ bankcards. The staff members insert their cards into a reader, and type in a PIN code to access the terminal. The terminal runs from a Citrix centralised server, and features Windows XP and Microsoft Office.

Phil Parkinson, corporate solutions director of Azzurri, says that having a centralised server is particularly useful for hospital workers: “If the user gets paged and has to leave urgently, if they withdraw the card, it disconnects the session. Then they can log in at another terminal and pick up where they left off."

“If the card is lost, nobody else can use it without a PIN, and BDGH’s IT department can issue a replacement."

Dave Smith, divisional director of Azzurri Communications, believes that the scheme may be the first in the UK: “By increasing access to information, BDGH is helping to make its clinical staff more efficient. This project puts BDGH at the forefront of hospital IT and leading the way in the NPfIT."

BDGH plans to use the scheme as their base to introduce the goals of the NPfIT, and in the future the scheme will be expanded to include access to appointment booking systems and the ability to order prescriptions.