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21 September 2011, 16:41

Moorfields to roll out open source patient record system

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After nearly a year running as a pilot trial, an open source electronic patient record system (EPR) is due to be rolled out more widely at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital in November. Interviewed by The Guardian, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields, Bill Aylward, describes the thinking behind the development of the OpenEyes opthalmology project and the expected benefits, both to patient care and in terms of cost savings.

Aylward made the point that commercial systems developed for the NHS, such as the care records programme, have not been particularly successful, and that open source might prove more suitable: "If you throw £11 billion at a problem and commercial companies give it their best shot and fail, that's telling you something." Instead of high costs – as OpenEyes is free software and without licence fees – Aylward believes that with improved efficiencies and the phasing out of paper notes, adopting the open source system could save several million pounds within three years.

But one of the main goals he described is that of improved patient care. He explained that the patient information needed by a doctor can be stored in many different repositories, with some trusts being rumoured to have hundreds of different clinical systems in which data might be stored. The point of OpenEyes is to give the doctor access to all the information needed for any patient, on one screen. He used an air traffic control system as an analogy: "You would sit down on one machine, with one log in, and there would be everything you wanted to know about the patient in front of you ... One of the key aims of OpenEyes is to give the doctor that air-traffic controller screen, so that all the data they need is right there in front of them."

The OpenEyes project is led by Moorfields, but is now receiving increasing support from other ophthalmic units including those at St Thomas' Hospital, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, Maidstone, and Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. The project web site gives screenshots of the software in use and details of the "elements" used for the input and display of clinical data. The documentation available is extensive, and states that the project is committed to "using open, preferably internationally but otherwise more locally agreed standards wherever possible."

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