News, Secondary Care

UCLH reflects on becoming a digitally integrated hospital

University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust recently asked its staff to reflect on the trust’s digital integration journey over the past two years.

UCLH chose the Epic electronic health record (EHR) in 2017 following business case approval, and went live with the system in 2019.

Staff chose to highlight specific areas – ranging from more flexible ITU care, through to real-time updates on test results and organ support status, managing patient flow and contact tracing – in which the health record had helped to support them during the trust’s COVID-19 response.

Communication, quick access to information and data sharing appeared to be key, with bespoke dashboards, patient apps and staff chat functions also among the positives noted.

Navigating the logistical challenges of working across three sites and six ICUs, while sharing information at “local, regional and national level” was also aided by a “bespoke dashboard fed by live EHR clinical data,” according to ICU Consultant,Tim Bonnici.

“Not only do we have live bed occupancy,” he said, “our fully digital record meant we could build a system that also shows live organ-support status.”

Other staff responses praised the “remote access to our full EHR” that provides “the same richness of information even when doing outpatient clinics from home,” as well as the improvement of using an “integrated EHR chat facility rather than using a phone” when dressed in full PPE.

The feedback came from a broad set of staff in a variety of specialties, with acute kidney injury (AKI) researchers, ICU nurses and maternity services all able to utilise the system for bespoke solutions.

Rik Thomas, ICU Consultant, told the trust: “Our EHR makes providing ITU level care in different environments so much easier. I have exactly the same tools and integration of medical devices like monitors and ventilators that I have in ICU. This means I can concentrate on caring for patients without the distraction of needing to work differently.”

Alison Clements, Head of Operations, Patient Flow & EPRR, added: “With many potentially infectious patients coming to hospital, real-time updates on tests and results are crucial in helping to manage patient flow and patient placement into correct bed type during a pandemic.”

Melissa Heightman, a Respiratory Consultant, told the trust of how she was able to “systematically collect data from patients” who were suffering from long COVID, “both in the clinic and through electronic questionnaires sent beforehand through the patient app.”

“This allowed me to constantly adapt UCLH’s service to treat this new disease,” she added.

While the dedicated patient portal also allowed Head of Midwifery, David Connor and his team to “continue conversations with mothers-to-be” and “remotely monitor blood pressure and other vital measurements added to the EHR by patients from the comfort of their homes.”

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