Suffolk Health Authority's extranet has been named IT Initiative of the Year by Health Service Journal
Suffolk Health Authority has landed a top accolade in the Health Service Journal Management Awards 2000, writes Richard Adams.
The authority won the IT Initiative of the Year award for its implementation of the Suffolk extranet, which links the Suffolk NHS community. This consists of seven primary care groups, four trusts and the health authority. The system was installed to provide more effective communication between these agencies and other related groups.
According to Peter Rogers, IT manager for the authority, producing a user-friendly system was of paramount importance. "The extranet was designed for people who are not used to the Internet," he explained.
The site is for the local community as a whole so it had to be user-friendly. The user navigates their way around the browser-based extranet by clicking on a series of menus to drive the search.
The service runs a content management system using .asp on SQL server. As well as allowing partners to exchange information about management strategy, it also enables other users to share documents and create discussions.
The extranet falls in line with government plans for services such as local health authorities, GPs and the police to communicate as one body. Unlike NHS Net, which is exclusive to health agencies, the Suffolk extranet enables other agencies to communicate as well. The extranet also links to the NHS library strategy, IT and GP development initiatives.
Phase two of the extranet development will allow the public to access information about local NHS services, GP details, etc. Infocom, the company responsible for the installation of the extranet, is already working with Suffolk Health Authority to improve and develop the system according to these aims.
Infocom also worked on the development of NHS Net and other NHS projects throughout the country.
Judges of the award applauded the Suffolk extranet for using widely-available Web-based technologies with low training requirements.
Although the project is only seven months old, the judges were convinced that with appropriate backing it has the potential to become a beacon extranet. They said they hoped that, by recognising the success of the project with this award, other organisations will be encouraged to explore simple Web technologies to help local communities work together.