University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) went live with a new electronic health record powered by Epic in 2019. The trust’s clinical teams reflect on facing a pandemic as a digital hospital.

In March 2019, UCLH transformed into a digital hospital with Epic, a fully integrated electronic health record (EHR). This created a solid foundation to respond to the future healthcare needs of the people it serves.

The pandemic put this to the test and UCLH’s success in responding to this challenge was greatly enhanced by its digital capabilities – having rapid and secure access to information from anywhere and the ability to analyse, share and learn from data quickly. Staff spontaneously remarked how these digital tools enabled them to maintain high quality care and safety in what for many is the greatest challenge faced in our lives and careers.

Our story

Our venture to make UCLH a truly digitally integrated hospital has paid dividends during our response to Covid-19. We are one of a handful of trusts to have done this.

The pandemic has tested us all, but from a healthcare perspective, the single electronic health record (EHR) implemented just under a year before the pandemic has seen us through an exceptionally turbulent time.

It means that our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals have immediate access to all relevant patient information in one place. We have been able to make rapid advancements in care through secure information sharing across hospital settings and healthcare organisations. Indeed, colleagues across the board say they could not have imagined working in any other way during the pandemic.

Their feedback really demonstrates the benefits of a digital hospital and how effective rapid access and sharing of data has been during this health emergency. This is the future of healthcare.

Feedback from the team

Rik Thomas, ICU Consultant

“Our Electronic Health Record (EHR) makes providing ITU level care in different environments so much easier. I have exactly the same tools and integration of medical devices like monitors and ventilators that I have in ICU. This means I can concentrate on caring for patients without the distraction of needing to work differently.”

Alison Clements, Head of Operations, Patient Flow & EPRR

“With many potentially infectious patients coming to hospital, real-time updates on tests and results are crucial in helping to manage patient flow and patient placement into correct bed type during a pandemic.”

Leila Hail and Gema Martinez-Garcia, Infection Prevention and Control Nurses

“Contact tracing for patients and staff using integrated data from EHR and other hospital systems has completely transformed our ability to follow-up, manage and communicate infections and exposure risks in real-time during this pandemic.”

Tim Bonnici, ICU Consultant

“A big challenge was managing patient spread across three different sites with six ICUs and continuously sharing the information at local, regional and national level. We rapidly developed a bespoke dashboard fed by live EHR clinical data. Not only do we have live bed occupancy, our fully digital record meant we could build a system that also shows live organ-support status.”

Wai Keong Wong, Consultant Haematologist and Chief Research Information Officer

“Remote access to our full EHR means that I have the same richness of information even when doing outpatient clinics from home.”

Meera Patel, AKI Digital Clinical Research Fellow

“30% of Covid-19 inpatients have acute kidney injury (AKI). Using an AKI detection algorithm we created live dashboards to enable us to provide proactive structured advice across multiple locations to track outcomes and to refine and optimise care.”

Katherine Tracey, ICU Nurse

“When in full PPE, it’s much easier to communicate with colleagues using the integrated EHR chat facility rather than using a phone. And with everyone having access to the same real-time information, clinical teams can quickly and effectively provide remote advice.”

Melissa Heightman, Respiratory Consultant

“I was able to systematically collect data from patients suffering from Long-COVID both in the clinic and through electronic questionnaires sent beforehand through the patient app. This allowed me to constantly adapt UCLH’s service to treat this new disease, optimise the use of limited resources and to inform the national response to long-term effects backed-up with real-world data.”

David Connor, Head of Midwifery

“We use the patient portal to continue conversations with mothers-to-be and, when needed, we can remotely monitor blood pressure and other vital measurements added to the EHR by patients from the comfort of their homes.”

Natalie Shamash, maternity patient

“The patient portal is a vital source for my healthcare and an instant communicator. I always know when my test results are in as the app alerts me. When I have had an appointment, the notes from the appointment are updated and I have instant access to them.”

Adapt and thrive

We could not be prouder of staff working on the frontline and those working hard in the background to support and provide them with the environment and tools to work during the pandemic. We firmly believe we wouldn’t have been able to adapt and thrive the way we did without the broad and deep adoption of our electronic patient record and related technologies.