HP has helped Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust to overhaul its IT infrastructure as part of a 10-year, £200m project to enable digital data to be used across its hospitals.
Fran Cousins, chief operating officer at CUH, explained at an event at the Academy of Medical Sciences in London that the Trust undertook the project to ensure that digital technology is put at the centre of its Addenbrook's and Rosie hospitals.
"We were doing something which was pretty ground-breaking and hadn't been done before in the NHS on the scale that we have achieved, so we needed to get external advice to ensure we were on the right track," she said.
Cousins explained that the overhaul required the Trust to deal with a large legacy IT estate, some of which was over 10 years old.
"We had a multitude of clinical systems and we had some areas that didn't have any systems at all like intensive care and A&E," she said.
"We had limited functionality and the NHS IT history is that it's really built around the administration of care not the delivery of care."
This meant that the Trust lacked the ability to integrate systems across the hospital, and a lot of medical processes still relied on paper records with no way to track results or provide effective medical decision support.
Furthermore, the Trust lacked WiFi connectivity and was reliant on an ageing PC infrastructure without the ability to provide anything more than limited remote access. The old systems also presented challenges in terms of resilience and reliability.
The Trust decided to move its analogue hospitals into the digital age by opting for a cloud-powered infrastructure-as-service approach provided by HP, which removed reliance on a mass of internal IT systems.
HP also provided the Trust with a refreshed network that introduced wireless connectivity into the hospitals and added 5,750 new desktops, laptops and mobile workstations to replace old machines.
An electronic patient record system provided by healthcare software specialist Epic was integrated into the Trust's systems, and HP ensured that all the devices used in the hospitals could feed data back into the central system.
Dr Afzal Chaudhry, chief medical information officer at CUH, said the system can be accessed through mobile and portable medical devices connecting to the 1,300 WiFi access points installed throughout the hospitals.
One example of this is the 'Rover' devices carried by the hospitals' nurses. Effectively an iPod Touch with a Honeywell barcode reader, the Rovers are used to record patient data that is then fed back into the Epic system.
Chaudhry explained that this allows medical staff easily to record and access patient medical data, keeping them better informed with up-to-date information.
"I've personally made better decisions because we have access to the data," he said, adding that the system saves the Trust £270,000 a quarter by better utilising resources to operate more efficiently.
Medical on the move
Chaudhry explained that the combination of new HP infrastructure and the Epic system allowed the hospitals to introduce a ‘bring your own device' policy that currently supports 3,700 users across Android, iOS and Windows devices.
The Trust also offered remote access to Epic's medical records and the hospitals' Microsoft Office apps, allowing medical staff to work on the move or provide remote assistance to hospital operations.
Providing digital access to medical records on static and mobile devices has allowed the Trust to save £77,000 on paper costs. This could well be the sort of evidence the government uses to justify a move toward a 'paperless NHS'.
The sheer scale of the Trust's IT overhaul meant that HP had a few challenges to overcome before the eHospital programme could go live in October 2014.
Martin Newland, Cambridge University Health Trust account executive at HP, said that the company had to ensure that the new network infrastructure was resilient enough to support WiFi across both hospitals.
"To put in WiFi in with the broadest scope, to ensure the appropriate level of coverage everywhere, was a complex procedure," he said.
Newland explained that HP ran into problems with crossover in the wireless networks installed in the hospitals which working out which devices needed to run on certain WiFi frequencies and tailor the networks so that clashes were averted.
He also said that HP needed to repackage a diverse range of hospital and third-party applications to run on the modern infrastructure.
Even once all the technological and logistical problems are solved with the project, Newland said the issue of training staff on the new systems and making sure they use them also had to be factored in, to make the investments worthwhile.
"Even once you fix something, you need to make sure the people are using it," he said. "It's very easy to make changes to a system but there's no guarantee that they get adopted in any way."
This required the Trust to retrain 10,000 people involved in the hospitals' activities in nine weeks, adding up to 175,000 hours of training, helping ensure that the investment and the benefits offered by the rollout are delivered to patients.
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