Alder Hey CIO on going paperless, face-recognition tech and putting off Lorenzo

CIO interview: Dr Zafar Chaudry, Alder Hey Children's Hospital

Staff and patients at Alder Hey Children's Hospital are getting ready to say goodbye to the cramped wards that have served the hospital for almost 100 years.

The planned move to a spacious new £280m hospital and research centre in 2014 will provide new facilities for the Liverpool hospital, which treats more than 200,000 children and young people every year.

Overseeing the technology at Alder Hey is CIO Dr Zafar Chaudry, who is also in charge of IT at Liverpool Women's Hospital, a teaching hospital specialising in services such as maternity and neonatology and the largest hospital of its kind in Europe.

As CIO, Chaudry's job involves walking a fine line between making sure hospital staff have access to the technologies they need while ensuring that new kit never disrupts the care provided at the hospitals.

The technology that plays the most central role in the everyday lives of the doctors and nurses at the two hospitals is the Meditech healthcare information system, which provides a range of information and services to clinical and administrative staff.

The system holds patient records and appointments, and at the women's hospital can work with laptop computers on trolleys to allow doctors to order drug prescriptions from a patient's bedside.

The Meditech system currently offers staff the tools they need to do their job, according to Chaudry, and as a result the CIO has put off replacing it with a new Patient Administration System (PAS) under the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) - the Department of Health funded £12.7bn programme to revamp NHS IT - until early 2013.

alder hey children's hospital

Alder Hey Children's Hospital relies on a healthcare information system provided by Meditech
(Photo credit: Alder Hey Children's Hospital)

PASes are designed both to perform a broad range of functions at a hospital, similar to the Meditech system, from holding details of patient medical records and appointments to ordering drugs, laboratory tests and scans for patients.

New PASes are being installed at hospitals across England under the NPfIT, however, the programme has been dogged by criticism over how long it has taken to get the Lorenzo PAS up and running, with Lorenzo only live in a seven health trusts, eight years after the NPfIT was launched.

Chaudry said the hospitals will only make the move to Lorenzo if it has "functionality where we need it to be", adding that he has doubts whether it will ever measure up to the Meditech system.

"Within Meditech now we are able to do anything from order entry to online documentation to electronic prescribing at the bedside," he said.

"We haven't seen the same functionality with Lorenzo where it has been deployed.

"Lorenzo release three or four gives us the functionality that we have got now but Meditech are already coming out with a new version, so they will always be that step ahead."

However Chaudry is more positive about two other NPfIT-funded projects, Choose and Book and Pacs.

Choose and Book is a system that allows patients to immediately book an appointment at their hospital of choice using an electronic booking system, either online, on the phone or at their GP surgery.

The system is used for...