Differing medical record systems between NHS trusts ‘risk the safety of patients’

Study in England reveals 21 systems that fail to share information effectively

Study in England reveals 21 systems that fail to share information effectively

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A major survey has uncovered critical deficiencies in electronic medical record-keeping in England, which could be putting patient safety at risk.

A study from Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) found that of the 77% of NHS trusts in England that have upgraded to electronic patient records, many are facing difficulties with sharing patient data.

The researchers discovered that the NHS trusts were using one of 21 different electronic medical record systems, which were unable to share information between them effectively.

Difficulty with accessing medical information

The study analysed data from 152 acute hospital trusts in England between April 2017 and April 2018, including the records of more than 21 million patients.

On 11 million occasions, patients attended a hospital that could not access full electronic information from their previous visit to another hospital.

Potential for ‘errors and accidents’

IGHI clinical research fellow Leigh Warren, who worked on the study, said: ‘Hospitals and GPs often don’t have the right information about the right patient in the right place at the right time.

‘This can lead to errors and accidents that can threaten the lives of patients.’

IGHI co-director Lord Darzi said: ‘It is vital that policymakers act with urgency to unify fragmented systems and promote better data-sharing in areas where it is needed most – or they risk the safety of patients.’

Plan to enable faster patient access to their health records

A spokesperson for NHSX, which is NHS England and NHS Improvement’s digital transformation organisation, said it was addressing the problem.

‘NHSX is setting standards so that GP and hospital IT systems talk to each other and quickly share information, such as X-ray results, to improve patient care,’ they said.

‘As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the health service will put patients in control of their own care by giving them better and faster access to their health records, including test results.’

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