ALMOST half a million patient records are now available at the click of a button thanks to a new digital database.

Basildon Hospital has scanned the final batch of medical documents from its paper library on to a huge 34 million megabyte database, known as an Electronic Medical Record system.

Over the past four years, the trust has transferred all its records from a warehouse the size of a small aircraft hanger into a computer the size of a fridge freezer.

The system allows doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to access medical histories, test results and appointment times around the clock.

Pushpakaran Munuswamy, a consultant gastroenterologist and chief clinical information officer at the hospital, said: “Clinicians are entirely dependent on medical records, but paper records can only ever be in one place at one time.

“Patients may attend a number of clinics and each time the records are out of circulation for five or six days. Our Electronic Medical Record system helps to fix that problem.

“This system makes it easier to access information and means more than one person can access it at the same time. This is a huge change to the way we are all used to working, but we can all see the benefits.”

The move to digital records cost £7million, but bosses estimate it will save £1million a year in reduced operating costs and £1.6million a year in improved efficiencies.

The central storage warehouse, located three miles from Basildon Hospital, closed in June last year.

Staff can also access the set of 446,000 electronic records from health care facilities outside the hospital.

Phil Burke, manager of the project, added: “We really are pioneers with this system and it is creating a lot of interest from other trusts. The success here has rested on the way the trust’s internal team has implemented it. A number of hospitals have started to scan their medical records, but we are among the first in the NHS to completely digitise them.

“It is not an IT project – it has been designed and driven by the clinicians who use it.”

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