UK cancer network implements new electronic prescribing and comprehensive electronic patient records

20 Jan 2010

A chemotherapy software solution that enables patients to become more involved in managing their own care has been successfully rolled out across a network of hospitals in the UK. The Thames Valley Cancer Network has implemented 'Aria for Medical Oncology' from Varian Medical Systems and already has more than 850 clinical staff routinely using the system.

The network, comprising cancer centers in Oxford and Reading and district general hospitals in Wiltshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, has staggered the implementation over the past year, with Buckingham Hospital going 'live' early in 2009 and the Great Western Hospital in Swindon recently becoming the most recent site to roll out the program.

"The ARIA system has been extremely well received by clinical teams and patients alike," says Dr. Claire Blesing, consultant clinical oncologist at Churchill Hospital in Oxford and clinical lead for the project. "A big plus is that ARIA is not just a prescribing system, like the previous method we had here in Oxford, it's a full medical record. We were looking for something fresh and new to use in trusts that had no great background in electronic chemotherapy prescribing and ARIA gives us all the functionality we require."

Dr. Blesing added, "We needed something that could be accessed from all hospitals across the Thames Valley Network without losing data between them. This enables a patient to be prescribed initial chemotherapy in one hospital in the network and then have follow-up treatment in another."

Varian's ARIA oncology information system provides all the tools needed to manage the clinical, administrative, and financial activities of a medical oncology department. The oncology-specific electronic medical record (EMR) is the centerpiece of the system, enabling a personalized care pathway to be designed for each patient from initial diagnosis through follow-up. The system manages chemotherapy, drug orders and all other non-drug physician orders.

"The system's toxicity evaluation sheet records the side effects a patient has when taking chemotherapy and we can record how well they are and how much they weigh each time they come in for a consultation," said Dr. Blesing. "This is all on the same patient record as you use to prescribe chemotherapy. So when a patient is with me, I have it displayed on the screen in front of me and the patient can also see it. We also give the patient a record book to take home and they become much more involved in managing their treatment."

Susan Wright, 66, a cancer patient at Great Western Hospital in Swindon, said, "Dr. Blesing explained the system to me when I first began chemotherapy treatment and I have constantly felt part of the process rather than simply being told what to do. We go through my medical record together and it enables me to become more involved in managing my disease."

Dr. Blesing has worked with colleagues at Trusts across the network -- comprising Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, Milton Keynes General Foundation Trust, Buckingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust (Reading), Heatherwood & Wexham Foundation Trust and Great Western Hospital Foundation Trust -- to ensure the ARIA implementation matched the robust nature of the network's protocols.

"This means all the steps in the process from prescribing, to pharmacy checking, dispensing and drug administration by nursing staff can now be signed off electronically whereas previously the pharmacists used to have to check a printed off version and then fax it to the pharmacy," said Dr. Blesing. "The prescription was then prepared and sent back for signing by the nursing staff and many changes were made by hand. Now nothing needs printing and this reduces the possibility of errors and gives us more time to pay attention to our patients."

Thames Valley Cancer Network has now offered to share its regimen library and network-written user guides with all other UK ARIA for Medical Oncology users to try to reduce duplication of work across the country and speed up the process of ARIA implementation elsewhere.

Steve Laws, Varian's European software sales manager, said, "We are honored that this pioneering cancer network felt that ARIA met its needs for a fast, flexible, and paperless record keeping system. We are looking forward to working closely with the six trusts in this network to ensure the ARIA rollout brings as many benefits as possible for clinical staff and patients."


Source: Varian Medical Systems