Electronic patient records

The digitisation of patient records to electronic patient records (EPRs) from traditional paper-based systems demonstrates the digital transformation well underway throughout the NHS. The ability of NHS organisations, in particular NHS trusts and foundation trusts, to innovate in more cost effective and straightforward ways is in part due to the ongoing evolution and availability of EPR systems.

The concept of electronic patient records is not a particularly new idea, however, electronic patient records offerings are evolving all the time and the focus now appears to be shifting towards ‘cloud-hosted’ EPR systems, instead of earlier ‘on premises’ offerings that required servers to be hosted at an organisation’s premises. This access to ‘cloud-hosted’ solutions allows NHS organisations to innovate and access newer technologies in a way that many could not previously, paving the way for new healthcare innovations, such as the use of artificial intelligence within the NHS.

The NHS Long Term Plan (published in January 2019) envisages that all secondary care providers in England will be fully digitised by 2024. Having an effective EPR system in place will go a long way towards hitting that target. Through harnessing innovative solutions such as EPR systems, NHS organisations are not only leveraging technological benefits, but are also looking ahead, to pave the way for new ways of working between NHS organisations, including the sharing of patient data through wider integrated clinical record systems, such as local health and care records.

What to think about when contracting for an electronic patient recrord system

Internal planning for a new or replacement EPR system will often start well over a year in advance of the intended system ‘go-live’ date, as a number of key factors need to be considered. It is critical to ensure that there is continuity between any historic system and the new EPR system and therefore issues such as the migration of data between systems or suppliers must be established and planned for at an early stage. There will also be considerations around the procurement process that will be used and the contract that will be put in place.

An EPR supplier and system will need to be selected in compliance with procurement law. Once a supplier and system has been selected, a contract will need to be negotiated and agreed between the NHS organisation and the EPR supplier. The value of this contract may vary depending on a number of factors , but due to their usually lengthy duration EPR contracts will frequently be valued in tens of millions of pounds. It is therefore of fundamental importance to ensure that the contracting mechanism used, as well as the contract itself, is suitable for the needs of an NHS organisation and offers the protections and standards needed to ensure that the supplier delivers the EPR system in a secure, reliable manner.

Arguably the preferred way to contract for an EPR system will be to call-off from a suitable framework. Hempsons worked alongside NHS England and NHSX to introduce a new ‘Lot 1’ to their Health Systems Support Framework (‘HSSF’) in August 2019. The HSSF was designed to allow NHS organisations to digitise more quickly to interoperable standards. The new ‘Lot 1’, and other services available under the HSSF, such as shared or integrated care records, provide a comprehensive route for NHS organisation to access pre-accredited suppliers who have already been subject to an extensive evaluation.

Our recent EPR experience

Hempsons’ digital team can offer you the range of key expertise and experience in procurement law, IT contracts and data protection law you need to effectively establish, negotiate and conclude the procurement processes and multi-faceted contracts required for an EPR system.

We have recent experience of advising a number of NHS organisations on the procurement and contracting of their electronic patient record systems with cumulative total contract values in excess of £100 million. This is both where NHS organisations are procuring EPR systems individually and also procuring collaboratively alongside other NHS organisations and under several different frameworks.

Our recent work has also included advising on complex, hosted and shared domain solutions and on the intricate contracting and data protection issues which arise from the deployment of these emerging cloud-based technologies.