St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust is facing teething problems with its installation of a Cerner Millennium hospital information system.
The trust went live with the Millennium in March, under a new local delivery model from local service provider BT.
Five months later, the trust, which is one of the largest in London, has had to second additional senior management expertise into the project team and institute an additional programme of workflow changes and training.
The trust says the new system is creating difficulties in tracking patient notes in some areas and in managing outpatient appointments; creating backlogs of work that have required extra staff to deal with.
They have also had a knock-on effect on the trust’s ability to meet and report on activity. Sources familiar with the implementation say the trust was fortunate that the coalition government dropped the national requirement to meet 18-week referral to treatment time targets in the revised NHS operating framework.
The problems are understood to mainly relate to staff finding it difficult to adjust to new processes and to using the unfamiliar Cerner system.
The south London trust told E-Health Insider this week that the implementation was just the beginning of a major change programme; a project it calls iCLIP.
“Although we successfully avoided some of the major pitfalls of other deployments, the new systems have presented some challenges to staff, particularly in relation to outpatient clinics and the tracking of case notes,” said chief operating officer Patrick Mitchell in a statement.
“Since the programme deployed some staff have found it challenging to follow the new workflows. Therefore, where appropriate, we are simplifying processes by modifying workflows and administrative procedures.”
He added: “We have allocated additional temporary support while the new system and processes fully embed in these areas. A further programme of training and workflow changes are also underway as we continue to support staff and prepare for the next stages of the programme.”
Julia Crawshaw, the general manager for maternity services, has now been seconded into the project team “to lead on the work looking at optimisation of workflows, operational procedures and further training.”
The problems now being addressed occurred despite 1,600 staff being comprehensively trained prior to go-live.
However, Mitchell stressed that thanks to the hard work of staff, the new information system is delivering benefits, including “real-time reporting in the A&E department and more complete monitoring of bed occupancy.”
Mitchell said: “Reporting in real-time requires that staff report more promptly and accurately so additional training needs are also being identified to help individual staff become more comfortable with the system.”
A spokesperson for BT told EHI: “Obviously these are operational issues the trust is dealing with. It is not for BT to comment. But you would expect that on a major deployment programme of this scale there would be issues.”
In the most recent trust newsletter, the chief executive said: “I do fully appreciate that iCLIP has been far from smooth sailing. However, all major projects have their ups and downs and I know that many colleagues are focused on the long-term success of this important project.”
The first phase of the iCLIP programme has involved replacing the patient administration system and installing an integrated A&E, bed management and outpatient system to the trust.
Later phases will include full theatre scheduling, diagnostic ordering and resulting and a specialist critical care module.
St George’s took the NPfIT Cerner system from BT to replace an ageing, 23 year-old iSoft PAS. The trust followed the much smaller and simpler Kingston Hospital NHS Trust, which went live with Cerner in November 2009.
The next trust due to go live with Millennium in London is meant to be Imperial, scheduled to take the system in 2011, under Cerner’s Method M delivery model.
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