Frontline healthcare staff in the west of England are being offered mobile access to electronic patient records as part of an NHS-funded project examining new technologies to boost patient care.
A group of six health organisations in Gloucestershire is using an electronic patient record system from iSoft, along with technology from Citrix, to allow users to access patient information from anywhere, using any access device, over any network connection.
Use of Citrix MetaFrame access infrastructure software has allowed the trusts to supplement their dated green-screen systems installations and offers staff, including district and mental health nurses, with role-based access to 32-bit clinical and administrative applications.
Simon Gill, electronic patient record project manager for Gloucestershire Health Community, said the project offered easier access to vital patient information via full-screen mobile devices such as Tablet computers and notebook PCs connected via wireless modems.
"Currently we have 250-plus users and a handful of mobile users and it's growing every day. Whatever we do has to be secure and we have to keep the cost in check," he said.
"Our challenge was to make use of existing infrastructure and we needed to make applications mobile. Patient care can be enhanced by providing real time access to the latest general clinical applications.
"If you want to deliver electronic patient records you need to have mobile access. IT departments in the NHS are underfunded and overstretched. Citrix makes support less of an issue."
Mobile access to applications is provided over the Orange High Speed Circuit Switched Data GSM network using Nokia 6310 bluetooth phones providing a 14.4Kbps network connection as standard at a cost of 6p per minute. Higher bandwidth of 28.8Kbps is available at additional cost.
But Gill warned that finding appropriate mobile devices on which to run the applications has been one of the biggest challenges, leading to the development of what he described as a "bit of a cobbled-together solution".
"We've given security a lot of thought. We have secure dial in - no passwords are passed over the link - and 128-bit encryption," he said.
"And the devices we've been trialling in the field are very secure and no patient data is stored on them. If they're stolen they're useless without a password, and all configuration is lost when the batteries are taken out."
iSoft is one of three core clinical applications procured as part of the National Programme for IT in the NHS.
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