One of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe, St James’ Hospital employs over 3,500 staff and 110 consultants across 11 clinical directorates and 10 departments. It houses the busiest Emergency Department (ED) in Dublin, which in 2010 alone received 45,230 patient visits.
In 1998, St James’ became an early adopter of Electronic Document Management (EDM). Acting on Canon’s advice, it introduced an archiving and retrieval system in its Emergency and Social Work departments, to organise and streamline the huge amount of paperwork being generated.
Document management had previously been a laborious process, as IT Operations Manager Marie Sinnott explains: “Patients were given a physical card detailing their information. This was passed on to the doctor and then handed back. The cards were then stored in cabinets. This increased the likelihood of errors, such as the loss of a file, leading to longer waiting, consultation and treatment times.”
In 2004 St James’ began extending its EDM portfolio – introducing two SAP ERP modules for transactional processing and business management. However, as Pat Bailey, SAP System Support at the hospital, recalls: “We realised that while SAP modules were doing their jobs perfectly for the Finance and HR departments, there was room for improvement storing, indexing and retrieving files.”
Following an extensive market search, the hospital chose Canon’s document management solution: “It seemed a natural progression, considering how well it was performing elsewhere in the hospital.” However, Bailey recalls that he did have one technical concern: “As good as the solution seemed to be, could it integrate with the SAP modules? The answer was yes, easily.”
In the Emergency Department, the benefits were immediate: “With the new Canon solution, the patient card is only filled in and scanned once. The doctor can then locate and access it digitally at a click of a button. The retrieval process used to take up to anything from 5 minutes to an hour, depending on where it was stored. Now it takes literally a few seconds.”
However, Sinnott soon realised that this technology was capable of much more than just archiving, quick file search and retrieval: “The solution’s storage capacity is endless. And importantly the solution is versatile. We realised we could use it in our clinical photography department too. In fact, it was becoming apparent that it had the potential to benefit any department’s operation.”
The next departments to benefit from the solution were Finance and HR: “It enables us to store important, confidential files in one place. An advanced administrative mode ensures access is only granted to the appropriate people. It’s a simple, effective and secure digital filing system that allows the staff in HR and Finance to operate quickly. If there’s a problem, rather than having to spend up to an hour searching in filing cabinets, the authorised personnel can now use the unique tagging system, before identifying the problem and rectifying it in under a minute.”
Other departments to have benefited from Canon’s health information management solution include Clinical Photography – where digital images (taken on the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III camera) are, as Sinnott explains, “now directly saved into the patient’s file and stored securely to avoid loss or unauthorised access. Image logging enables the consultant to monitor recurring problems, such as a skin condition, more efficiently.”
For both Sinnott and Bailey, the benefits of Canon’s solution aren’t just those of the paperless office: it has also radically improved the experience of its end-users, the patients themselves. “Patient records can be accessed centrally allowing the treating clinician to view previous clinical details, thus expediting the patient’s journey... It all results in a more focused and professional service.”
For Bailey, the strongest accolade for the Canon solution is the feedback from hospital staff: “The departments that have already implemented the solution are looking into ways of maximising its potential. The departments that haven’t are keen to get on board.” Sinnott concludes: “The results have shown it is an easy and worthwhile transition for any department.”