Fifth Scottish health board joins regional portal

NHS Dumfries and Galloway joins project to link the Orion Health portals across the West of Scotland

NHS Dumfries and Galloway has become the fifth health board to join an ambitious project to create a regional portal for the West of Scotland.

A link between its Orion Health portal and the portals in use at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Golden Jubilee National Hospital, NHS Lanarkshire, and NHS Ayrshire and Arran was established in July.

The successful completion of the project means that clinicians at hospitals serving a population of 2.2 million people can access information about their patients quickly and easily.

It’s a fantastic way of sharing information, that makes the whole system much-more-joined-up, offering clinicians all the information they need at the point of care delivery

Graham Gault, general manager of ICT at NHS Dumfries and Galloway, said: “We are a small health board, serving a remote, rural population, and lots of our patients have to travel to tertiary centres for major orthopaedic, cancer and cardiology treatment.

“The portal means that we don’t need to send notes to Glasgow or Golden Jubilee where they might be referred. Their clinicians can just press a button and see everything they need linking in context to electronic records back in Dumfries.

“Just as importantly, when patients come back home, our doctors can click a button to see what has been done. It’s a fantastic way of sharing information, that makes the whole system much-more-joined-up, offering clinicians all the information they need at the point of care delivery.”

Scotland has had an eHealth strategy since 2011. As part of this strategy the West of Scotland deployed a clinical portal with all boards converging on technology from Orion Health.

The region undertook a review of information sharing in 2015, and discovered that more than one in 10 episodes of care (from A&E attendances to elective surgery) involved a patient being treated outside their home health board.

It also established that finding information about these patients was a major challenge for clinicians.

In response, a West of Scotland Regional Information Sharing Board was set up to link the portals.

A first, pilot link was made between the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde portal and the NHS Lanarkshire portal in May 2016. The other portals were linked in over the next 15 months.

William Edwards, director of eHealth and HI&T at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “Our research has shown that doctors spend up to 70 minutes a day trying to find information about their patients.

“The regional portal makes it easy for them to find a lot of the information they need, so we expect it to lead to significant time and cost savings.

“A particular benefit is access to test results. Doctors can look and see if the tests that they need have already been done and reported. That will save a lot of time, and make treatment faster and more effective for patients.”

To access the regional portal, a clinician clicks a tab in their own IT system called regional portals. This brings up a page with links to all the portals available.

We know that many other health and care communities in the UK are considering similar initiatives and we hope this project will show them what can be delivered for staff and patients

If the clinician clicks one of these links, it passes over the CHI Number (the Scottish national patient identifier) to see if there is any information available about their patient. At the same time, an audit log of access is kept to prevent inappropriate use.

The information in the different portals varies, but the regional portal project agreed that demographics, GP details, lab results, encounter history and clinical documents such as letters and clinical notes would always be available for sharing.

Nick Reed, a consultant in clinical oncology at the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow, said this had already led to ‘huge improvements in communications and time savings.’

“You have the ability to access results, forms and correspondence in a speedy manner, which allows you to make decisions in clinics very quickly,” he added.

And Colin Gray, country manager for Scotland at Orion Health, said: “We have established a strong and successful partnership with West of Scotland’s health boards, as they have rolled out their clinical portals.

“The regional portal has already been accessed more than 50,000 times this year, so it’s clear it is already valued by clinicians. We know that many other health and care communities in the UK are considering similar initiatives and we hope this project will show them what can be delivered for staff and patients.”

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