How can we create a more sustainable NHS with cost-effective, proven and clinically led EPRs?

Rachael Fox profile picture

23 October 2023

Rachael Fox
Executive Vice President
Altera Digital Health

In 2023, the NHS celebrated 75 years, but can we be sure it'll be there for us when it reaches its 100th birthday? In today's rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, sustainability is a key priority for healthcare systems around the world.

Within the NHS, the need to provide high-quality care while managing costs effectively has become even more important. Electronic patient records (EPRs) are a powerful tool to improve patient safety, drive high-quality care and enhance operational efficiencies. However, the traditional high costs associated with the "big bang" EPR implementations have raised concerns about their sustainability and if such deployments are an efficient way to spend taxpayers' money. I want to spend some time exploring here how a cost-effective, proven and clinically led approach to EPR implementations can help support a more sustainable NHS.

The importance of sustainability in healthcare

Sustainability in healthcare extends beyond environmental concerns; it encompasses financial viability and long-term effectiveness. As healthcare demands increase, it is crucial to implement solutions that can adapt to evolving needs without compromising patient care. EPRs have the potential to transform healthcare delivery by streamlining processes, reducing errors and improving decision-making. Nevertheless, it is imperative to implement EPRs in a sustainable manner that ensures greater success and optimal return on investment.

Accelerating digital maturity with a cost-effective approach

Achieving digital maturity in healthcare requires a strategic approach that optimises resources and minimises costs. Implementing EPRs in a cost-effective manner involves exploring options beyond traditional large-scale implementations. By adopting a modular and scalable EPR system, NHS trusts can implement the technology in phased stages, enabling gradual adaptation and minimising upfront costs.

A scalable and modular EPR system offers several advantages over traditional large implementations. EPRs can be expensive, but they don't have to be, and they can offer incredible value for a lower investment if the right solution is chosen. We have seen how Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust went live with Sunrise™ EPR, using local budgets to accelerate its digital maturity and taking a tailored approach to meet the trust’s key priorities.

The benefits of scalable and modular EPR systems

Trusts don't need to rip-and-replace everything they may already have up and running. Concentrating resources on implementing the strategic components that will deliver the greatest value can deliver key functionality and efficiencies faster, instead of going for a one-size-fits-all solution. This is not only more cost-effective, but it also takes a significant pressure off the organisation in terms of deployment effort and change. Additionally, a modular EPR system provides flexibility for future enhancements and integrations, ensuring the solution can evolve with changing requirements.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust took a phased approach to deployment, enabling a smoother transition. The organisation is now one of the top-performing acute hospital trusts in the country, and is regularly in the top five for A&E performance in England. It's also one of the few trusts in the country to have no long waiting patients (those waiting 52 weeks for planned care) and it has delivered the 62-day cancer standard each month for more than three years.

Importance of interoperability and data integration

To maximise the value of EPRs, interoperability and data integration are critical. Healthcare organisations must ensure that their EPR systems can seamlessly exchange information with other healthcare applications and systems. This produces comprehensive patient records, improves care coordination and enhances clinical decision-making. By leveraging standardised data exchange protocols and open interfaces, NHS trusts can integrate EPRs with existing systems, optimising efficiency and reducing duplicate data entry.

Usability and clinical leadership as critical success factors

Usability and clinical leadership are vital elements for successful EPR implementations. User-friendly interfaces and intuitive workflows enable healthcare professionals to efficiently navigate the system and focus on patient care. Additionally, involving clinicians throughout the design and implementation process ensures that the EPR system aligns with their needs and clinical workflows. Clinicians play a crucial role in driving adoption and acceptance, as their input helps shape the system to best support patient care delivery.

Success stories from NHS trusts

We have proven that an EPR can be implemented efficiently in months, not years, without any compromise on quality, safety or usability at trusts like Medway NHS Foundation Trust, who deployed their EPR in five months. These healthcare organisations have documented positive clinician adoption and are reaping EPR benefits sooner rather than later, leading to a better experience for both patients and clinicians.

The future

Creating a more sustainable NHS requires innovative approaches to EPR implementations that prioritise cost-effectiveness, usability, and clinical benefits. By adopting a modular and scalable EPR system, NHS trusts can achieve digital maturity without needing national funding in a phased manner, reducing upfront costs and ensuring long-term viability, while enabling us to protect one of the UK's most precious assets, the NHS.

To learn more, meet our team on stand 26 at the NHS Providers Annual Conference and Exhibition 2023 on 14-15 November, and join us for our satellite symposium session on the first day at 1:25pm to hear from:

  • Mark Hutchinson, vice president – healthcare strategy and transformation, Altera Digital Health,
  • Jackie Edwards, chief clinical engagement officer, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and
  • Jane Saunders, director of digital transformation, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

If you can't make the event, please click here to find out more about how Altera can help you bring next-level healthcare within reach – for your clinicians, patients and communities.

About the author

Rachael Fox profile picture

Rachael Fox
Executive Vice President

Rachael Fox is the executive vice president at Altera Digital Heath (UK and EMEA).

Rachael worked within the NHS for over 19 years before joining Altera (previously Allscripts) in 2016. During her time in the NHS, Rachael held various senior leadership roles during which she was responsible for the successful deployment of Sunrise EPR at one NHS trust and assisting with the successful deployment at a neighbouring NHS organisation. At Altera, she was previously vice president of Client Success and Support.

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