Cheshire sees the big picture on discharge communications

Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT has spearheaded a new shared IT solution to cut the long delays between a patient leaving hospital and their GP receiving detailed discharge notes.

The MedisecNET electronic delivery system is being used by three Acute Trusts (the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, East Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) to provide one consistent electronic way of delivering discharge documentation to 92 GPs across Cheshire1.

Uniquely, the technology builds on existing systems, giving both hospital and surgery the time-saving efficiencies of electronic delivery, without major IT investment.

Diane Nolder, Senior IT Project Manager at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust comments: “Despite using a completely different system to generate our discharge correspondence than the two other Trusts in the area, we’ve still been able to plug into the same delivery network as them, producing a commonality of approach for GPs right across the county.”

Tom Rothwell, managing director of system developers Medisec Software adds: “As the network can potentially collect from any hospital system and deliver to any GP system, the technology is hugely transferable across the NHS and could play a major role in helping Acute Trusts to meet next year’s 24-hour NHS standard for delivering discharge communications to GPs.”2

With the right patient discharge information at the right time, GPs can look after the needs of patients much better.

Dr Neil Paul, a GP at Ashfields Primary Care Centre in Sandbach, enthuses: “Medisec is the missing link. By providing one central electronic funnel which a whole range of providers can drop information into, it allows everyone to talk to one another in a consistent way. It means that we get critical clinical information from the hospital overnight rather than it sitting in out-trays, waiting to be printed or being lost in the post!”

Surgery staff can transfer the information into their practice systems without any scanning or dual keying – saving time and avoiding errors.

“Before, surgery staff would waste hours battling to scan in hundreds of documents each week, it was almost a full time job,” claims Dr Paul. “Now, it’s very quick and simple for our staff to just authorise and file letters. It’s increased our efficiency and sped things up dramatically.”

“The main benefit for the GPs is that they have a unified process,” says Debi Lees, ICT Project Manager/Business Analyst, Cheshire ICT Service, Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT. “It doesn’t matter which hospital the letters come from, they go in to the practice via the MedisecNET funnel into the GP’s document management software, so that the practice only need use one method of dealing with correspondence.”

The system can provide a clear audit trail from letter generation to delivery, so both the PCT and hospital can see exactly how long it is taking to deliver discharge updates to GPs.

Patricia Reilly, IM&T Clinical Systems Manager, the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, explains: “We can now compare how long it’s taking different specialties and consultants to generate and issue clinical correspondence. By identifying backlogs and areas where action is needed, we can improve communications with our GP partners and deliver better patient care.”

The system can potentially handle any correspondence from any system and deliver it in one format in the GP practice. “We are very much on the first rung of the ladder,” claims Debi. “Electronic delivery of discharge documentation has already proved very popular with the GPs but our end game is for every surgery in Cheshire to receive all clinical correspondence, not just discharge forms, in the same way.”

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