University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust plans to market its online referral system, NORSe, to other NHS trusts.

It will work with private provider Intouch with Health to commercialise the system, which was developed in-house and has been in use since December 2010.

NORse was originally developed to support referrals to the neurology department, by allowing consultants and registrars to respond to requests from other hospitals with advice and management plans via an application for the BlackBerry smartphone.

Once a referral is made, NORSe, which is integrated with University Hospitals Birmingham’s patient administration system, connects the consultant to the details of the case, and then updates the patient record with the notes and advice provided by the consultant.

The trust’s programme delivery manager, IT services, Dean Grinham explained that prior to the implementation, NHS organisations wanting to refer patients to neurological services at the trust had to do so by phone – and calls often went unanswered. There was no formal process in place to record patient referrals and keep track of what was happening.

Following the system’s success in neurology, University Hospitals Birmingham developed NORSe to support other areas of care, including renal, burns and liver.

It has also been deployed in nearby Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and there are plans to implement the system at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

University Hospitals Birmingham, which has a history of commercialising in-house IT tools, is keen to expand the use of the system further, and will work with Intouch with Health to connect with other trusts around the country.

Grinham told Digital Health News that the trust has previously collaborated with the company on the commercialisation of in-house IT systems, including the trust’s self check-in kiosk, which is now in use at 70 NHS trusts.

Grinham said a key selling point for NORSe is its use of HL7 standards and the ability to integrate with any patient administration system. University Hospitals Birmingham currently uses CSC’s iPM, but is in the process of moving to Servelce’s Oceano system as a full electronic patient record.

Grinham also explained that NORSe wi not limited to BlackBerry and can be used on any device on the N3 network with online access. “We think there is a gap in the market for a product like NORSe,” he said. “I’ve had doctors from the neurology department talk to me and say they would never go back to using paper.”