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‘The Digital Hospital’ of the Future

September 13, 2013

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Academics at Oxford University Hospital are pioneering an integrated digital system with the aim of improving not only efficiency at a managerial level but also the quality and consistency of care patients receive throughout their stay. This ‘Digital Hospital’ consists of a structure which generates more accurate information and allows easier access to this information for all those involved in the day to day running of the hospital.  Below are seven key components of Oxford University’s Digital Hospital, as detailed by experts in the field including Professor Jim Davies from the Department of Computer Science and Professor Lional Tarrasenko at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

1) The implementation of a new IT system gives patients access to their appointment dates, surgical dates, their imaging, blood results and referral letters. Clinicians can discuss an x ray with a patient at the bedside and answer any queries they might have. This involvement in a patient’s own digital record facilitates greater transparency, improves the interaction between doctors and patients but more importantly makes the patient feel empowered and in control of their own healthcare. ‘Sure its more empowering for the patient, but it’s also more empowering for everybody…with better information managing will be more fulfilling.’ — Prof Jim Davies (Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford)

2) RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) asset tracking systems has been introduced in order to reduce lost equipment. Small tags on medical equipment sends a signal to the wireless infrastructure which results in decreased spending on unnecessary equipment and makes the equipment instantly available in the areas they are most needed.

3) According to OUH Director of Pharmacy, Bhulesh Vadher, an electronic prescribing system heralds the move away from ‘scribbled drug charts’ and improves on patient safety by dramatically reducing the likelihood of human error during the process. This e-prescribing system on the one hand involves better management and organisation of drugs and on the other will save time and effort finding drug charts by making information on what to prescribe and how to prescribe more readily available.

4) As General Practice and Hospital Medicine have become increasingly intertwined so has the need for greater communication of information between these healthcare establishments. An integrated system of healthcare ensures a patient requiring treatment in emergency services will have the records from their local GP more readily accessible. This improved efficiency will ultimately lead to a higher standard of care.

5) OUH has developed GP COIN (Community of Interest Networks), a single network of GPs across Oxfordshire. This wireless infrastructure improves the connection between GPs and acute hospitals or community hospitals, allowing GPs to move freely and effortlessly across different sites. Furthermore, free telephone calling between GPs will result in a more efficient exchange in information.

6) A new automated IT system has been implemented which allows nurses to enter patient information more accurately while at the bedside and in real time, feed this information to a doctor on a remote ward. This eliminates the risk of error on the part of staff members and gives managers a clearer picture of what is happening on the ward at that moment.

7) Professor Lional Tarrasenko describes how aggregated ‘big data’ may lead to important advances in the healthcare system. By linking databases together which contain information on separate aspects of a patient’s healthcare experience, data from a variety of sources can be collated, analysed for unusual patterns, used to minimise risks such as administering incorrect drugs and optimise resources

‘It’s transformed the way I deliver healthcare, the way we think about health care and the way we’re planning healthcare for the future’.  – Dr Ivor Byren (Consultant Physician, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre)

‘There is no area of OUH’s operation that is going to be unchanged by this information revolution. Everything we do is going to be advanced by this.’ – Prof Jim Davies (Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford)

Watch the full video below, with interviews from patients, nurses, GPs and Oxford professors.

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