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NHS trust mops up after electronic patient records mess

Cerner Millennium system caused treatment delays, data problems

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Oxford University hospitals NHS trust is dealing with patient contact and data quality issues following a major project to implement Cerner Millennium.

A roll-out of the Cerner Millennium electronic patient record (EPR) system caused delays in treating patients at Oxford University hospitals NHS, its board has found.

There were a number of difficulties following the implementation of the system on 3 December 2011 as part of the National Programme for IT, according to a report (PDF) of a trust board meeting.

The problems that affected patients most were in the patient contact centre, where new processes took longer than expected and there were consequent delays in responding to patients because of a backlog of work.

The Oxford Mail reported that complaints at the trust's hospitals – the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Horton General – almost doubled following the introduction of the new ERP system, from 52 in December 2011 to 102 in January this year. The newspaper also said that throughout January the Patient Advice and Liaison Service received up to 50 calls a day, double the previous monthly average.

"Additional resources" have since helped to reduce the contact centre backlog and "calls are now being handled in a timely fashion", the board report says.

Some "data quality issues" related to the new EPR system arose because of "training and understanding of the new workflows", the board found. More than 3,500 staff had been trained for the new EPR, but the trust has now provided supplementary training for key staff.

The board says the EPR is one of the biggest operational change projects the trust has ever undertaken, affecting all reporting, inpatient and waiting list activities, but is critical to improving patient care and safety, improving efficiency, develop new services and supporting clinical research. "These objectives will only be fully realised when the clinical implementation has been completed during 2013," it said.

New clinical functionality will include the electronic requesting and reporting of diagnostic tests and improved clinical documentation and communication. An 'exemplar area' in respiratory medicine which will be launched in early May and followed by a rollout across the whole trust over the following 12 months.

An integrated clinical theatre system is also planned to support scheduling of cases and better delivery of clinical information, as well as supplying an integrated clinical record.

The board says that a detailed timetable for the next phases of the project is being drawn up and will be accompanied by tracking of the project's benefits realisation plan.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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