The NHS is using at least 21 different electronic medical records systems that are unable to communicate with each other posing a risk to patient safety, a survey by Imperial College London (ICL) has revealed.
Researchers at ICL’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) looked at data from 152 acute hospital trusts in NHS England over a one-year period between April 2017 and April 2018.
They found that, of the 117 trusts using electronic records, 79 percent employed one of 21 different commercially available systems, and 10 percent were using multiple different systems within the same hospital.
According to the data, nearly four million patients received treatment at two or more hospitals which had different health record systems, while on 11 million occasions, patients attended a hospital that could not access medical full information from their previous hospital visit.
The research, published in BMJ Open, also showed that of 20 pairs of hospitals regularly sharing care of the same patients, just two were using the same electronic health record systems.
Not having access to the right information about patients at the right time “can lead to errors and accidents that can threaten patients’ lives,” warned Dr Leigh Warren, clinical research fellow at Imperial’s IGHI and first author of the research.
“Electronic health records have been heralded as a solution to increasingly stretched healthcare systems, yet our research shows that the challenge is far greater than simple adoption of this innovation,” added Professor Lord Ara Darzi, lead author and co-director of the IGHI.
“It is vital that policy-makers act with urgency to unify fragmented systems and promote better data sharing in areas where it is needed most, or risk the safety of patients.”