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Princess Alexandra Hospital: Concerns raised over new multi-million pound Electronic Health Records (EHR) system set to go live in October

Health / Mon 10th Jun 2024 at 11:44am

PRINCESS Alexandra Hospital (PAH) bosses plan to launch a new electronic health record (EHR) system in October.

Over the last few years, hospital trusts across the country have been switching to EHR systems.

The system, (called Alex Health in Harlow) is best described by Phil Holland, chief information officer at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT).

Mr Holland said: “Alex Health is our new electronic health record system. An electronic health record is an integrated digital record of a patient’s care, drawing together information from all systems that store a patient’s personal health care data. It will help our clinicians and local GPs get fast and easy access to this data and save patients having to repeat information at each appointment.

Chief Information Officer: Phil Holland

“There are a range of benefits including to patient safety, reducing repeat testing, improving access to appointment booking, and better support for patients.

By the end of 2023, 189 trusts had introduced new systems.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Electronic records give clinicians access to vital patient information when and where they need it, alerting them to immediate risks and giving them more time to care for their patients”.

However concerns have been raised to us, that the implementation of the multi-million pound EHR system is not running smoothly.

One source tells us is that is being hampered by “staff vacancies”, “spiralling costs” and “insufficient training for staff”.

Photo from X account of PAH Deputy Director, Robbie Ayers

As we said the programme is set to go live in October. Sources have expressed concerns about PAH being wedded to that deadline and the risks attached. There are concerns over possible risks to patient care and treatment.

There is also a question of how much this has cost and whether it has gone over budget? It was budgeted at £31 million in 2023.

The topic of Alex Health regularly comes up in PAH Board meetings.

References to Alex Health in May Meeting of PAH Health Board

“We continue to make strong progress with the implementation of our Alex Health programme, in partnership with Oracle Health colleagues.”We continue to make strong progress with the implementation of our Alex Health programme, in partnership with Oracle Health colleagues.

We are shortly entering the second phase of integration testing and are shortly coming out of the second phase of data migration. Training plans are close to being completed and training slots are being booked up by colleagues from 12 August.

The next two weeks are a crucial phase in the programme, and we have several major milestones to achieve to remain on track to go live on 14 October 2024.

As previously discussed widely through Board and Committee meetings, the implementation of this instance of the Oracle Health Millenium solution will get us to HIMMS Level 6, enabling us to be one of the most digitally mature hospitals in the country, transforming how our clinicians work, the information and speed of information available to them and supporting more timely and effective clinical decision making. Our patients will benefit from improved experiences, better clinical outcomes and improved safety as a result.

Current Risks and Issues
While the programme is currently rated at amber, there are risks that we continue to manage and mitigate. The key risks, generally remain the same, and are summarised below:

  • Effective completion of integration testing phase one, and data migration trial load 2. Risk exists with the completion of this testing phase and is currently under review to assess mitigating options
  • Completion of installation and integration of bedside monitoring devices
  • Continued lack of flex in our timeline.
  • End User Training readiness and delivery
  • Organisational Readiness for go live and new ways of working
    Key risks and issues continue to be managed through the Implementation Board with detailed mitigation plans, with the appropriate escalation to the Programme Board.

We put a number of questions to the Chief Information Officer Phil Holland. These questions were based on references in agenda items and minutes to Alex Health

Three of the questions were:

What are the risks associated with EHR?

How may working practices change following deployment?

What are the implications of working with an “unstable” EHR?

Here are his answers.

Phil Holland, chief information officer at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT), said: “Alex Health is our new electronic health record system. An electronic health record is an integrated digital record of a patient’s care, drawing together information from all systems that store a patient’s personal health care data. It will help our clinicians and local GPs get fast and easy access to this data and save patients having to repeat information at each appointment.

“There are a range of benefits including to patient safety, reducing repeat testing, improving access to appointment booking, and better support for patients.

“We are working towards this important transformation for our patients and our people in autumn 2024.”

As you may discern, we asked what the risks were? We asked what the implications of working with an “unstable” EHR was? You may want to consider whether he answered the questions?

YH travelled to the PAH admin centre in Kao Park on Thursday with the intention to witness Alex Health being discussed. It was scheduled to be discussed after 11am. But when we arrived at 11am, we were informed it had already been discussed. Look like we will need to be there for the whole four hours next time.

We will continue to follow the EHR journey. This may seem like quite a dry story written in quite a procedural way but this is your money being spent and this is your families health records being transferred into a computer. We just want to play our part in making sure that when a member of your family is in PAH, when Alex Health is live, that your records are there at the touch of a button and not suddenly lost.

The people of Harlow’s health is not a thing which, like a computer, that can be switched on and off again.

It is not something that should be gambled on. We are not in Las Vegas anymore you know…………

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6 Comments for Princess Alexandra Hospital: Concerns raised over new multi-million pound Electronic Health Records (EHR) system set to go live in October:

David Forman
2024-06-10 12:39:33

With all software projects that span multiple platforms and integrate legacy technologies they require testing and risk analysis. The paragraph in the news item that gives me some hope things are being managed correctly is: "Effective completion of integration testing phase one, and data migration trial load 2. Risk exists with the completion of this testing phase and is currently under review to assess mitigating options." The phrase "assess mitigating options" suggests that they are not going to 'go live' with a unworkable system.

Adam
2024-06-10 12:52:09

They need another trip to vegas to get this sorted.

PAH employee
2024-06-10 15:00:46

Well said David Forman. Of course we aren’t going to go live with a system that doesn’t work, hence the need for all the complex testing in partnership with the supplier, Oracle Health. I would consider the reliability of YH’s source’s information: - ‘insufficient training for staff’? Training doesn’t even start until 12 August as you say later in the article - ‘spiralling costs’? It’s an agreed contract price Turning a huge positive into a negative….

Jean
2024-06-10 17:10:53

I'd still like to know who has access to our 'confidential, between patient+dr records'. As I've mentioned before, the receptionists are able to see what a dr has said at a previous consultation, ie: me- 'the dr told me they'll see me in 2 weeks if no improvement', receptionist- 'let me look in the notes, oh yes that's right , let's get you booked in'. Why are they able to do this?

Riad Mannan
2024-06-11 20:45:58

This project has the potential to be a great success, ensuring PAH patients' data is used efficiently and effectively by medical professionals to provide best healthcare outcomes. However, like any data based technology application, there should be due concern about cyber risks - whether its ransomware attacks like those on other NHS trusts recently or accidently loss of data we have seen in other organisations. Of course time will tell how this plays out, but it is important to ensure it works properly without costs spiralling. One question I do have is how is the data shared outside the PAHT, i.e. if a patient moves out of Harlow, does the data go with them to the next Trust?

DEC HAN
2024-06-12 07:06:53

As with all new data programs unrealistic deadlines are always set which in turn lead to risk taking corner cutting to get back on track, the most common being to delay the training of people/staff in the belief that their is still enough time for this which can be true but people are trained to run an efficient system which as we all should know that new systems mean new glitches and the possibility of cyberattacks which not many ( if any ) people are trained to recognise, boardroom decisions and promises for ambitious individuals looking for brownie points and or promotion have always be a risk of causing problems, I’m not saying this is the case or will be the case with this new NHS database it’s just a generalisation, remember nothing’s ready till it’s actually ready 😊

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