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Leeds NHS Trust moves millions of patient records to the Microsoft Azure public cloud

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is moving its on-premise patient data system to the Microsoft Azure public cloud

One of the UK’s largest NHS Trusts is in the throes of migrating the digital records of millions of its patients to the Microsoft Azure public cloud, as part of a push to bolster the performance and resilience of its IT infrastructure.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT), which employs 20,000 staff across seven sites in West Yorkshire and treats around 1.5 million patients each year, has committed to migrating its on-premise patient records system to Azure.

Specifically, the Trust is migrating the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) of millions of patients, which are used by healthcare teams to keep tabs on the medical histories of people treated by the Trust.

As such, these records include a chronological report of the patient’s medical history, past diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, allergies, tests and immunisations. This data is updated in real-time and the amount of it the Trust needs to store is growing all the time.

On this point, Martin Waugh, head of EHR development at LTHT, said – since 2015 – the number of electronic forms completed per month has grown from 25,000 to more than 1.5 million, which has created scalability challenges for the organisation’s existing infrastructure.

On top of this, the data needs to be accessible round-the-clock to the Trust’s healthcare professionals so they can offer timely and effective treatment.

“The EHR system is a critical part of supporting any hospital,” said Waugh. “If clinicians are unable to access it, they can’t get timely information about their patients, and that obviously has a direct and negative impact on the healthcare they can provide. This is clearly a risk and a realistic possibility if we keep our EHR system in on-premise servers, because there is a limit to what they can handle with a platform that is constantly growing and evolving.”

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The migration is already underway, and the Trust confirmed it is developing and deploying new clinical capabilities directly into Azure now, and has already added capabilities that allow it to send electronic forms to patients at home for them to fill in ahead of their medical appointments.

Azure is also powering 200 electronic whiteboards in use throughout the Trust, which are used by doctors, nurses and clinicians to access real-time data about how their patients are doing. This information is also accessible to clinicians via a mobile app.

“The cloud has allowed us to take massive steps forward in our Trust’s digital transformation and positioned us for many years to come,” said Waugh.

Paul Jones, chief digital information officer at LTHT, said the organisation has already completed a large portion of its “digital transformation” without causing any disruption to any of the services it provides. “We were expecting some disruption… because we are working on a major piece of infrastructure engineering, but it’s been business as usual. The only difference clinicians have seen is the ability to get patient information quicker than before,” he said.

Moving the EHR system to Azure means the data it contains can also be made accessible to healthcare teams working for other Trusts, including staff working for the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust – enabling the organisation to push up the level of care it can offer patients in the region even higher.

“This is a system that has been developed by the NHS with the NHS, for the NHS; and I believe that should be used to support other hospitals and Trusts as they move towards digitisation,” said Jones.

“There are many Trusts around the country that have pretty basic electronic health record systems or no system at all. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is significant in terms of size and scope, so if our EHR on Azure can support us to work more efficiently, we’re pretty sure it can support many other healthcare providers.”

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