Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has partnered with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC) to deploy electronic health record technology.

Under the 14-month implementation plan, a UPMC technology team will install and adapt five electronic health record (EHR) applications at five Newcastle hospitals, including the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Freeman Hospital and Newcastle General Hospital, with a total of over 2,000 beds.

The five applications to be installed include inpatient order entry, patient administration, pharmacy management, accident and emergency services and operating room systems. Details of the applications to be used or the value of the deal were not disclosed.

UPMC and Newcastle have also formed a joint venture to provide IT services to other UK hospital trusts. “Newcastle will be an important proving ground for this partnership,” said Len Fenwick, chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals. “We are confident that others will soon see the value of what we are doing here and seek to replicate it.”

UPMC has regularly been voted one of the leading hospital groups in the US for its use of IT. Systems used by UPMC include: Epic System’s EpicCare for outpatient electronic medical records, Cerner’s PowerChart for electronic medical record management, Medical Archival Systems, Inc. for patient notes, Stentor for digital imaging, remote access tools and a physician portal.

“Our senior health care professionals are delighted with this opportunity to move forward with such enhanced IT systems. In addition, we are considering collaborations with UPMC in clinical medicine, research and development, which will be significantly strengthened by this IT improvement”, said Timothy Walls, medical director at Newcastle Hospitals.

“The Newcastle contract is the first of what we hope will be many international agreements for our information etchnology services,” said Dan Drawbaugh, chief information officer at UPMC. Donna McCormick, CIO of UPMC’s international and commercial services division will be based in London to oversee the Newcastle project and other UPMC international technology initiatives.

The Foundation trust’s decision to award a contract for EHR applications outside the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) comes almost two years after it initially went out to procurement, rejecting the solution offered by the then local service provider Accenture.

In April 2006, Newcastle went out to tender outside the NHS National programme for IT, placing an advert in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) for new EHR applications.

In February 2007 EHI reported that the trust was waiting to see how things develop after CSC took over from outgoing LSP Accenture.

Explaining why it has gone outside the NPfIT programme the trust said “Because of its long-standing commitment to using advanced technology to improve patient care, Newcastle sought an outside technology partner to implement elements of an electronic health record. Through a competitive bidding process, it selected UPMC as its prime contractor. The new system is expected to be fully compatible with the UK’s national programme for electronically connecting hospitals.”