Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has finished digitising 446,000 patient records, it announced today.
The milestone marked the end of a four-year implementation project, with the trust scanning its final batch of records into a Fortrus electronic medical record (EMR) system this week.
The scheme cost £7 million to implement but the trust expects it to save £2.6 million a year in reduced operating costs and improved efficiencies.
Since 2010 a team of 35 has scanned records into the EMR system using equipment from Kodak and IBML.
In that time they have moved 68 million pages of patients' records from an aircraft hangar-sized warehouse to a 34-terabyte database on a computer little bigger than a fridge freezer.
The trust said the system will improve patient safety by ensuring medical records, including test results, appointment times and medical histories, are available to staff at any time.
In total 3,000 staff have been trained to use the EMR, which has an average of 165 people using it at any given moment. The implementation team phased the system in gradually by specialty.
A group of clinicians helped to configure the system, led by Ian Linehan, a retired consultant colorectal surgeon.
He told ComputerworldUK: "Most NHS systems are bought in and inflicted on us [clinicians]. But this time we were asked what we wanted first. And that was one place to log into to find out information about a specific patient."
The project manager Phil Burke explained the trust's warehouse was "bursting at the seams" before they implemented the EMR.
He said: "We realised what we were doing in terms of paper just wasn't going to be sustainableand it was about coming up with a safer system. We either had to move to a bigger warehouse or look for alternatives. And one alternative was to scan the records."
Prior to the project, Linehan explained that not only were the number of records proliferating, the amount of information going into them was also going up due to the increasing number of complex patient needs.
Burke had one main piece of advice for other trusts preparing to 'go paperless': "Make sure you've got a very strong implementation team," he said.
He added: "The fact of the matter is that it's a huge undertaking. I don't think anyone confuses it with a simple IT or scanning project these days. You need a strong team. And you need someone who really understands your local systems."
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