All inpatient interactions which were previously recorded on paper have been digitised at St James’s Hospital, Ireland’s largest acute hospital, and will now be recorded electronically. This is the largest-scale digitisation of inpatient records in an Irish hospital to date.

Every inpatient speciality and department at St James’s Hospital have gone live over the weekend of Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October. The transition has involved the training of 2,400 staff members over 21,000 hours with the new enhanced functionality of Cerner Millennium, the hospital’s electronic patient record (EPR) system.

Those attending the hospital as inpatients can expect a more efficient experience as the added functionality brings a raft of benefits for both patients and clinicians. Patients will no longer have to repeat the same details when receiving care, with test results and diagnoses being shared faster between hospital departments. By having quicker access to records, including any prescriptions or allergies, hospital staff will be able to provide smarter, safer care.

Each patient’s EPR will include medical and nursing assessments, medical history, medications, allergies, laboratory test results, radiology images, and more.

Lorcan Birthistle, CEO St James’s Hospital said: “St James’s, as the largest acute hospital in the country, has a leadership responsibility and it is a landmark development that we moved to digital inpatient records this weekend. The electronic patient record system will help us to care for patients more effectively, resulting in patients being diagnosed and treated more promptly. We have spent many years planning for the changeover to ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption to patients. We are entering a new phase of healthcare in St James’s and in Ireland, and we are determined that our patients will benefit from these advances in technology.”

Named ‘Project Oak’ as a reference to the paper that will be saved by going digital, a multi-disciplinary team has spent nearly three years planning for the changeover. This included training staff on how to leverage the new functionality with the introduction of mobile workstations; testing the system and trials on the wards.

Dr. Gráinne Courtney, Chief Clinical Information Officer, St James’s Hospital said: “We are still in the early stages of this major change, but careful planning has ensured that patient care has not been disrupted significantly over the weekend. The implementation of this system is set to bring a raft of benefits to patients attending the hospital as health records are available instantly to those caring for a patient. Increased efficiencies mean patients will wait less time for their diagnoses, treatments and care. Over the course of the coming months and years we anticipate this will translate into shorter wait times and hospital stays.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “St James’s Hospital has proven itself to be a leader in this area. The move to electronic health records supports better, safer clinical decision-making and facilitates the provision of a more connected health service delivering improved health outcomes. The roll out at St James’s Hospital marks a very significant development and the staff and management should be proud of their achievement.”

St James’s Hospital received significant funding and support from the HSE for the digitisation project. Commenting on the initiative, Professor Martin Curley, Chief Information Officer, HSE said: “The launch of the electronic patient record system at St. James’s Hospital is a milestone moment in the rollout of digitisation across the Irish healthcare sector. As the largest acute hospital in the country, St. James’s is a lighthouse example for other hospitals and healthcare providers who are planning for digitisation, demonstrating how innovation and change can be implemented on a wide scale. Moving on from paper records brings significant benefits to patient experience, and efficiencies for staff and hospital resources. Digitisation is a key component in the reform of health and social care services, and I sincerely welcome the changeover at St James’s Hospital.”

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