A study in the British Medical Journal reports that an effort in England to centralize patient records on a standard IT system is at risk because local staff are feeling left out of the implementation process.
The multibillion-dollar project, called the National Programme for IT in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), promises benefits for both patients and the NHS as a whole. But researchers found that staff at four typical hospitals where the program is being implemented viewed it unfavorably, mainly because of poor communication and lack of consultation from project headquarters. In particular, staff members feel as if local needs and advice have been ignored.
If the problems highlighted in the report aren’t addressed, medical staff are unlikely to use the system fully, says Naomi Fulop, professor of health and health care at King’s College London and one of the report’s five authors. This could lead to further delays for the system and reduce its overall benefits.
In that sense, the challenges the NHS is facing are common to any organization implementing a broad new IT system, but on a bigger scale. Hospital staff have shown willingness to overcome the technical problems of implementing the patient record system, the study found. However, they insist that they need help from headquarters to get it up and running. Hospital staff were also uncertain as to when new systems would be implemented, and what local funding would be available to support them.
Initially, the NHS was to have fully deployed an electronic patient record system nationwide by 2005. A revised goal for the program is to have such a system in place in acute care facilities by 2008 or 2010, Fulop says.