U.K. completes major engineering work for health IT system

Health privacy a British hot button

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service has laid the technical foundation for providing electronic health records for 50 million U.K. patients, said Richard Granger, NHS’ director of general information technology, during the eHealth Initiative conference.

Granger said developers working on the NHS Connecting for Health project have already installed broadband connections that operate at speeds of 10 megabits/sec or 100 megabits/sec into 11,000 locations. They also have populated an e-mail system with 800,000 addresses, which is roughly the size of the U.S. Defense Department’s e-mail system. The program is designed to serve 30,000 clinicians and 270 health care providers.

Two years into the 10-year project, NHS has also started to push deployment of a picture and archiving communications system to manage and store digital medical imagery, such as X-rays, Granger said. NHS anticipates nationwide use of the system by 2007. “In two years, we will not do anymore analog images,” Granger said.

Now that Connecting for Health has completed its major engineering work, Granger said, he has to deal with minor issues not covered in the original plan that have arisen as a consequence of the automation effort.

For example, the use of bar code labels on drugs requires the purchase and installation of high-resolution printers in hospital pharmacies. This equipment was not provided for in the original contract but is critical for a nationwide electronic prescription system.

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