A groundbreaking alliance aims to help NHS trusts meet the challenge of electronic patient record implementation. By Vivienne Raper

Consultancy firm KPMG have established an alliance with Apira, Stalis and Aire Logic to bring to market a comprehensive electronic patient record (EPR) transformation service to help trusts meet NHS England’s target to have an EPR in place by March 2025.

The new Alliance, which launched on September 25th, aims to offer NHS trusts a single partner to help them implement and optimise their EPR system.

It is the first of its kind in the health and care sector and is designed to comprehensively meet the challenge of large-scale EPR implementation.

“Working with public sector organisations, we recognise that no single organisation has all the expertise needed to support trusts to deploy EPRs,” says Jaz Dhaliwal, lead partner for KPMG Digital Health.

Building the foundations

Dhaliwal, a former doctor in general practice, and a digital leader elected to the techUK Health and Social Care Council decided to help form the Alliance after conversations with customers and NHS England.

“It became apparent a different approach was desperately needed to reach the national 2025 target for getting every hospital embedded with an EPR,” she says.

“As a doctor by background who has deployed technology across the NHS, I know how difficult adoption can be and that ‘go-live’ is only the start of the journey.”

According to statistics from the NHS frontline digitisation programme, 28 NHS trusts still lack an EPR. Another 90 require help optimising their systems.

“To my knowledge, no trust is using a solely paper-based system, but many have disparate legacy systems, such as a separate PAS, emergency department, theatres and maternity systems,” says David Corbett, executive director at Apira.

Dhaliwal sees an integrated patient record as the bedrock for the future of digital integrated care.

“You can’t do generative AI or personalised medicine on a population health level if your EPR isn’t fit for purpose,” she says.

Uniting the Alliance

According to the partners, the Alliance couldn’t have come together without a shared history of collaboration.

“In 2020, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust went out to market for a transformation partner across several areas, including new models of care and a new hospital programme,” explains David Corbett, executive director at Apira.

“As an incumbent partner on digital, KPMG asked us to form part of the bid, focusing on – among other things – a business case for the trust’s integrated trust-wide EPR.”

Alongside the partnership, Apira went on to work with KPMG on multiple different projects – in acute trusts, community, and mental health, he says.

All four organisations in the Alliance have worked together before, therefore when Dhaliwal broached the idea of teaming up permanently, the partners were keen.

An integrated service

Aire Logic has a strong reputation for delivering user-centred design and engineering on a huge range of health and care projects, says founding director Joseph Waller.

Among their clients are Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and specialist NHS organisations, such as the Christie NHS Foundation Trust cancer centre.

“There are few national systems we’ve not had a hand in over the last 15 years, and we’re now delivering many major NHS programmes like the National Vaccination service,” he says.

Waller describes Aire Logic’s role in the Alliance as helping trusts assess their needs, integrate legacy systems into their EPR, and rapidly create niche functionality that their primary EPR may not support using low code platform, AireSuite.

“Whenever we identify a gap in functionality from an EPR vendor, we’re the putty and the glue, filling in with new features and cutting-edge innovation.”

The Alliance partners aim to provide a comprehensive range of skills and expertise for NHS trusts looking to deploy an EPR.

Dhaliwal says that KPMG, as the lead partner, have a strong reputation for large-scale transformation and a proven record in training at scale. Apira, says Corbett, are the commercial experts responsible for helping trusts with procurement and making a strong business case.

Stalis, meanwhile, have a long-standing reputation as data quality and migration experts, according to managing director Kate Bryan. “We’ve been working with NHS trusts since 1984 and have excelled in delivering data migration projects,” she says.

“We offer a full data quality and migration service, alongside a rich archiving solution, which can be embedded into the EPR. This provides clinicians with instant access to the full patient record at the point of care.”

The complexity of data migration can often delay EPR programmes, she says, so it’s vital that trusts work with an experienced partner to reduce the risks associated with data quality and migration.

Breadth of expertise

According to Corbett, not every trust will need all the services the Alliance offers. “Some customers will pick and mix, while others will engage with us for the whole journey.”

Crucial to the Alliance’s success, he explains, is that it provides a breadth of expertise through a single point of entry. Rather than hiring multiple companies, NHS commissioners can engage us under a single contract, he says.

“We’re able to fulfil each trust’s needs more efficiently, without duplication, by building on each other’s strengths.”

NHS trusts can also use the Alliance to bolster their capabilities in specific areas, he explains, especially while under immense pressure to deliver existing services.

“If a trust procures an EPR solution and can’t stand up the resources internally, they might have to delay implementation,” he says.

“What we can do with the Alliance is increase their capacity to enact a plan.”

Looking towards the future

The Alliance are already working with existing customers and hoping to engage new clients by the end of the year.

Corbett sees the Alliance having a busy future helping trusts meet NHS England’s EPR 2025 deadline.

However, he and managing consultant colleague Phill James see the Alliance’s role as reaching beyond that.

“We’re working towards continuous optimisation,” says James. “Technologies like artificial intelligence will impact EPR – and we’ll need to develop long-term relationships to deal with those developments, and more.”

Find out more: kpmg.com/uk/EPR