Gloucestershire hospitals have come up with an answer to the age-old problem of getting discharge information over to GPs quickly when a patient goes home.
The hospitals’ newly-installed Info-flex system from Chameleon Information Management Services (CIMS) collects the relevant clinical data and produces a discharge summary. The summary is sent electronically via the Anglia Healthcare messaging service from the discharging hospital directly to the patient’s GP as soon as the patient leaves.
Project manager Rob Graham says the system was designed to use Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s existing pathology messaging software. He added, “Our department has worked closely with clinicians, Anglia Healthcare and CIMS to create software that can be used easily by our doctors and ward clerks.
“Thanks to the new technology we aim to issue the vast majority of discharge summaries in one working day which is a significant improvement, and a good example of how IT developments directly support patient care.”
The trust says that the system is thought to be the first to offer such a comprehensive service delivering electronic discharge summaries so quickly.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Miles Wagstaff who was involved in the implementation of the new software said: “For a long time we’ve wanted to improve the way we communicate with GPs. At the moment, we do not always tell GPs promptly when their patient is discharged unless there are special circumstances.
“This sometimes means the transition of care isn’t as smooth as we would like it to be. We’ve worked with GPs on this new software and believe it will make a real difference to patient care.”
Gloucestershire GP, Charles Buckley added: “Although we have very good relationships with hospital doctors, finding out when our patient was discharged and with what drugs can be time consuming. Improving our communication channels can only be a good thing and it will be the patient that feels the real benefit.”
For the new system to work it also had to be compatible with the different GP systems used by doctors in Gloucestershire – and for two-thirds of them this meant EMIS GP systems. The company developed a module to enable the discharge summaries to be recognised by the communications element of its GP software systems.
Sean Riddell, EMIS managing director, said: “The module we have developed enables the discharge summaries from the trust to be understood and accepted by the doctors’ own system and we’re delighted to have played a part in this important project. The new scheme took a year to design and implement, with full involvement from consultants and GPs, who favoured the paperless solution.
A trust spokesperson explained that the discharge summaries can go directly to the patient record in EMIS and INPS Vision systems, but other systems are not excluded and can receive the summaries as e-mails.
CIMS chief executive, Marc Warburton, said: “We are delighted at the progress made within the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on the discharge summaries project. The system will have approximately 1000 PCs utilising InfoFlex, enabling GPs to receive appropriate clinical data electronically, minutes after the patient has been discharged from hospital.”
The new discharge summaries system has been running in three hospital departments since November and will be used throughout Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal Hospitals by March 2007.