• Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust ready to implement long-awaited electronic patient record
  • System will “revolutionise” the way care is delivered to patients
  • Trust will be first acute and community provider to use Epic system

An acute and community trust has launched a long-awaited £42m overhaul of its electronic patient record systems which will “revolutionise” the way care is delivered by staff to patients.

Four years after selecting American company Epic as its preferred supplier, Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust is ready to start work to join up its 15 technology solutions into one electronic patient record (EPR) system.

It comes after the trust received approval from NHS Improvement to proceed with the programme following a period spent securing the necessary funding.

The £450m-turnover trust is yet to reveal how much external funding it has sought, or where funding will come from, as final details are not signed off.

However, HSJ understands funding will come from both the public and private sector.

The scheme was also held up by the local health economy being placed under the “success regime” in 2015.

RD&E will be the first acute and community trust to deploy Epic’s EPR. Implementation will take around two years and the go-live date is scheduled for the summer of 2020.

Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (CUH) were the first NHS trust to roll out the system, in 2014, but implementation was dogged by problems which contributed to financial pressures and the trust being placed in special measures.

However, the trust is now a global digital exemplar.

University College London Hospitals and Great Ormond Street Hospital foundation trusts are the other NHS organisations who have chosen Epic as their new EPR supplier.

The four trusts have set up a group to share experiences and learning.

Tracey Cottam, director of transformation and organisational development at RD&E, told HSJ CUH have been “very open and helpful”.

Among the lessons learned are more time needed to train staff on the system ahead of go-live, retaining more programme staff after go-live in case problems occur, and promoting the overall changes as a redesign of care delivery rather than as an IT project.

Ms Cottam said the new system would stop staff having to “log in and out of multiple systems that don’t talk to each other”, and put an end to “piles and piles of paper patient records”.

“Staff will have instant access to information,” she said.

“Patients will be able to access their patient records, medical history, and test results, and they will get instant confirmation of when appointments are booked rather than having to wait for letters to arrive.

“Less tech-savvy patients can nominate a carer or family member to access the information on their behalf, or if that’s not possible we will do what we do now and provide all the communication for them.

“It will revolutionise the way we work and make it easier to deliver the best care possible.”

Ms Cottam said the new system would be “interoperable” with other technology solutions used by GPs and neighbour trusts.

This will be key for the trust which began providing community services in 2016 and is linking more closely with Northern Devon Healthcare Trust.

Around 130 staff will be part of the programme team, most of which will be recruited from inside the organisation but some external staff will be sought.

Implementation will start in September.