A mobile system to enable GPs to access patient records when on call

Project: Pocket Vision

Business goal: To develop a mobile system that enables GPs to access and update patient records when on call, thereby improving patient care and eliminating cost and duplication of effort.

Project partners: In Practice Systems

Award sponsor: Oki

When dealing with patients at their surgery, GPs typically have desktop access to patient histories and can update details of diagnoses and treatment after each session. But when they are out on a round of house calls they often only have little or no access to those records and then face hours of tedious inputting of notes when they return to the surgery.

For one group of GPs, though, those issues have all but evaporated. In 2004, the four partners and the registrar at Sutton Manor Surgery in Kingston-upon-Hull decided it was essential to have access to patient medical information while out of the surgery and an ability to automatically synchronise the data collected on their visits with the patient records held at the surgery.

Highly commended

Charnwood & NW Leicestershire Primary Care Trust

The transformation of the Trust's paper-based patient records system into a fully electronic version helped to reduce waiting times by up to 12 weeks, as well as improve general clinical care through access to complete records – all at a cost of 42p per head. The new, integrated system, developed by Ethitec, serves 955,000 people across Leicestershire and Rutland and over 400 clinicians who work from 126 separate locations.

West Yorkshire Police

Every week police deal with thousands of non-emergency enquiries, many of which are very similar in content. To help resolve this, a database of more than 500 frequently asked questions has been developed for all UK forces, as has a public website.

The Police National Legal Database (based at West Yorkshire Police and developed using the PDMS Foundations content management platform) is expected to generate annual savings of around £2 million.

The mobile solution they found – the aptly named Pocket Vision – was sourced from In Practice Systems, well-known in the healthcare world as the provider of the Vision clinical system that is used by a fifth of medical practices in the UK.

Pocket Vision (PV) works by linking laptops and PDAs with the centrally-held Vision patient records system, allowing GPs to gather relevant records before visits and then to access, change and amend these while on calls. Any notes or action taken on the call out is then automatically uploaded from the laptop or PDA to the server when the device is connected to the practice system.

Prior to the project, surgery staff would print off the latest medical history of each patient on the doctor's call list; afterwards doctors would input into the office's Vision system the hand-written notes that they took on the call. Now, the GP takes notes on a PDA or laptop and synchronises those on their return to the office.

The mobile enhancement, which has been in use since 2004, has not only improved the working lives of staff, but has also benefited the patients themselves. Access to clinical information whilst out of the office enables faster and more accurate diagnoses. PV also helps with presciptions, enabling the doctor to check any medicine being dispensed – the recommended dose, allergy profile, composition and so on – thus avoiding potential errors. Importantly, doctors found that by giving them access to patient records at the time of consultation, PV helped to reduce the number of revisits and follow-up telephone calls.

Partners find that on some vistits – for example, to nursing homes – it was not unusual for them to be asked to see several patients during the course of one call. In the past, consultations might have been limited by the lack of access to a patient's history. Now Pocket Vision provides immediate access to those records.

Moreover, doctors are also better able to respond to out of hours requests, such as questions from a coroner about a sudden death or from out-of-hours doctors with a query about a patient's condition. The judges were impressed by the very real potential of Pocket Vision's mobile technology to save lives, citing the positive public impact the project has already had, as well as the overall simplicity of the system for the use.

"PV is allowing the surgery to move towards becoming a paperless practice," said Paul Mitchell, a GP at Sutton Manor Surgery. "And as the user interface is the same as the main Vision system, it is easy to use and very little training is required," he added.

In scooping both these coveted awards, and facing off the blue-chip competition, this small suburban surgery has proved that size is no inhibitor when it comes to implementing innovative IT systems – and the real benefits the local community has experienced are testament to this.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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