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Simple IT solutions speed diagnosis

Voice software and NHSmail have transformed our local ultrasound service, writes Dr John Havard.

We receive the results of ultrasound abdominal scans from our cottage hospital while the jelly is still wet on the patient's tummy.

Aldeburgh and District Community Hospital is hosting a diagnostic venture that is revolutionising the service.

The initiative involves a community-based ultrasound service, web-based appointments, free text message reminders and instantaneous secure reports by email.

These simple but effective measures have been stalled in the past by security risks; they are now feasible using NHSmail's double encryption facility.

Rigmarole
The old system involved sending a paper request to the local acute trust via a referral management centre. A clerk would then assign an appointment to the patient who would be put on the list for the ultrasonographer.

Assuming the appointment was convenient, the patient would turn up and have the investigation. The ultrasonographer would dictate the report, which would be typed over the next few days, be checked by the ultrasonographer and posted to the practice.

Finally the GP would see the result on screen, once it had been scanned into the patient record.

Now, using simple, well-established technology, the new service cuts out all delays.

Instant results
As the requesting GP, I am able to view the available ultrasound appointments on a diary page within NHSmail. My practice books the appointment electronically thereby aiding work flow management in conjunction with the ultrasonographer and the acute trust. NHSmail's free SMS messaging is used to send the patient a text message to remind them of the appointment and to tell them whether a full bladder is needed.

Immediately after the scan, the ultrasonographer dictates the report directly into the computer, using voice-recognition software. It is therefore verifiable instantly and emailed to the requesting GP before the patient has got dressed.

This service is good for patients, GPs and the local health economy, as an NHS service delivered by the acute trust.

The trust deals with the service's staffing and educational needs while ensuring that reports are instantly available on the hospital IT system.

However, some GPs were not using NHSmail to book appointments, but were posting the form. As this meant they only got the fast result but no booking advantage, appointment booking is becoming a Choose and Book service - the results will still be 'NHSmailed'.

Dr Havard is a GP in Saxmundham, Suffolk

Abdominal scans

  • Ultrasound appointment slots viewed on NHSmail diary page.
  • Appointment booked electronically.
  • Appointment reminder texted to patient's mobile phone via NHSmail free SMS messaging.
  • Ultrasonographer's report dictated directly into computer via voice-recognition software.
  • Report emailed by NHSmail immediately to GP.

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