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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.

"The new wireless network is RFID-compliant so we can track things going across hospital whether it's valuable equipment or blood or whatever. We're about to put a layer of software across the network to make it much more efficient for clinicians so they'll have single sign-on to multiple systems and session persistence so they can go from using one device to another, leaving the system at a certain point in a patient record and joining it on another device at exactly the same place.

"We'll also have mobile device management so doctors can use tablets and laptops for electronic prescribing."

But IT isn't only being used to address broad issues, and specific targets can be met with an application of new technology.

"Last year one of the targets was that 90% of qualifying patients [by age or illness] needed to be assessed for VTE (deep vein thrombosis) so we incorporated something into our patients record system which not only allows you to do the assessment on the system but also lets you order surgical stockings. It sounds trivial but it helped make sure we met the target and ensures we deliver better care."

Having all this data on portable devices could post a greater security threat than even the outgoing paper-based systems, but Kingston's wireless network helps guard against any such breaches.

"We can wipe devices remotely, while some of the software doesn't store data on the device so if a device is lost there won't be any patient data on there. There have been scares about lorries dumping patient records in the street, but because of the way we're setting it up it can't happen. Information security is absolutely vital."

As for the spectre of BYOD, Brewer plans to take a cautious approach. "We're going to do it but let's make sure we've got all the controls in place first or mayhem could break out," he warns.

One type of data that is permitted to leave the hospital grounds is patient notes, now increasingly delivered electronically to GPs' surgeries across the Kingston area. These are being dictated digitally too, using the BigHand speech recognition system to reduce bottlenecks caused by delays in typing up patients' notes, waiting for the doctor's signature and the postal service itself. The next step will be to reverse that flow of information by making GPs' referrals electronic, and again Brewer is comparing notes with fellow NHS CIOs.

"[Connectivity with GPs] is something that King's College Hospital has done. We can talk to them and learn from them. There used to be a lot of reinventing the wheel but that's reduced enormously in the 10 or 12 years I've been here and that can only be a good thing.


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