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Members of the health service's Electronic Record Development and Implementation Programme (ERDIP) created the group to encourage a common set of solutions by endorsing available standards and methods.
Wrongly transcribed information on blood groups or drug allergies could lead to fatalities, so it's crucial that EPR is correctly implemented. The NHS IT strategy, published in September 1998, requires acute hospitals to have basic level of EPR by 2005.
This deadline for EPR has been called into question. Accurately transcribing patient data from cards onto computers will be a substantial job, and the issue of privacy is also a real stumbling block.
The Electronic Records Technical Advisory Group's (ERTAG) functions will include giving quality assurance to solutions offered to ERDIP; ensuring that advice is taken up; acting as the repository for all positive and negative experiences arising out of the ERDIP programme; and working with the Standards Information Service to identify areas where there is an absence of standards or policy.
Murray Bywater, managing director at Silicon Bridge Research, an IT health market research consultancy, believes the creation of ERTAG could prove to be a double-edged sword, however.
"It will be good for those implementing EPR to be advised on standards and best practice, this is the most important EPR issue," he said. "However, we are heading for a global standard in healthcare and the NHS must ensure that any standards are in the context of the world picture. Setting new standards away from global thinking would just not work."
The creation of ERTAG comes as Kettering General Hospital in Northamptonshire announced a 10-year deal to replace its current information systems.
After a four-year tendering process, Australian company IBA Healthcare, a technology pioneer in e-health, has signed a £7.5m contract to install an Integrated Clinical Information System that will help create an EPR system.
Kettering is set to be among the first NHS Trusts to meet the NHS's 2005 target for joined-up IT.