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Healthcare IT: past, present and future

rbbh.JPGYesterday evening I went to a leaving do for my friend and former colleague Roger. He leaves the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading after 12 years in the IT Department to join NHS Connecting for Health.

On the way to a restaurant, Roger and I were reminiscing. He reminded me about the implementation of email at the hospital—at first to about 12 staff. It was received with scepticism, though the Trust secretaries found it a great way to mail papers to all of the executive at once. The implementation of an intranet met with a similarly lukewarm response.

I was to procure a hospital wide Electronic Patient Record as part of a major programme of change and rebuilding. While that procurement progressed, demand for email, intra-and internet applications grew until the two-man systems development team could barely cope. They implemented an A&E system, results reporting to GPs, protocol-based referrals and various other web-based applications.

That experience formed my view of healthcare IT. The near future of the NHS is one of considerable change, owing to an ageing population, a lack of qualified staff and increasingly better informed consumers. Major restructuring of the NHS is inevitable, moving funding away from acute to primary and community care and erasing organisational and disciplinary boundaries in the process.

To support this change, core systems like EPR, PACS, Pathology and Pharmacy will be the foundation for flexible, innovative applications, like those developed by systems development at the RBH. The future of healthcare IT in the NHS is one of centralized information and devolved innovation.

My article “Making NP fit” describes how the National Programme for IT fits with such a future. Good luck Roger!

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