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Hospital IT director Anthony Brewer leading efficiency drive

Rhys Lewis | April 12, 2013
Few good things came out of the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak in the UK, but one positive by-product of the year-long crisis that decimated livestock and is estimated to have cost the economy £8 billion, is that it led Anthony Brewer taking the IT director's role at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust.

"So for us the National Programme has been a good thing. We also took PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications Systems) so all our X-Rays are digital, and the EPR was a huge leap forward.

"We're still plumbed into that until October 2015 and we're going live this summer with electronic prescribing and with putting a lot of clinical documentation onto our system. That's quite a big step forward. We're not at the vanguard but we are one of the first to do it - not many hospitals have that and we're one of the first to do it through the programme."

Change specialist

The secret of successful implementation of the programme's various units, Brewer suggests, has been in his approach to change management, gained and honed since running a change management programme to merge two government departments in the 1990s. With 3500 staff across the hospital boasting varying degrees of technology know-how, a balance of training, coaxing and rigid enforcement has seen the new technology adopted with the minimum of resistance.

"Once the EPR was in place we added facilities for the electronic ordering of diagnostic tests. We knowingly went live with a 'big bang' which is quite high-risk but that's how we'd get the change we needed," Brewer explains.

"One of the constant challenges is changing the way people work. To adopt these systems is no small challenge - it's actually easier if you enforce it in some ways, so with electronic ordering we took away paper forms on the day we went live and if anyone had paper forms, pathology and radiology refused to accept them. With levers like that it's easier to change.

"I've established a change management team as part of my department so we're out there helping people through changes, redesigning their existing processes to take advantage of the new technology.

"With electronic rostering, we're linking it to payroll and temporary staff, so if you don't roster on the system as a manager, your staff won't get paid and you won't get the temporary staff. Sometimes people have to go through some pain to make them change.

"It's like pushing a penguin off a cliff to make them swim.

"There are two factors holding IT back - one is the amount of money and people it takes to get it in and get it working, and the other is the change management aspect. If you can't get people to use these systems effectively and change their working practices, all you're doing is throwing money at it. Managing change drives out savings."

Wireless gains

A new wireless network will drive efficiency further, cutting out even more paper from hospital processes and speeding up the transmission of data around the wards and beyond.


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