NHS patient records to be stored in AWS cloud platform

The existing software used to store patient records is getting a revamp and relaunch into the cloud

EMIS Group, one of the UK's major healthcare suppliers, will migrate one of its core services to Amazon's cloud service.

EMIS, among other things, make EMIS Web, a flagship product of EMIS's which 56% of all GPs in the country rely on to provide care to patients. The service will be migrated to Amazon Web Service (AWS) as EMIS-X, a new and optimised cloud-based version of the software.

Packed with new features, EMIS-X uses a range of new technologies, including AI-driven voice recognition to automatically interpret patient-clinician conversations and respond with appropriate data from the patient's records or to provide suggestions for treatment.

"We see millions of hours currently spent by patients and staff in repeating information at each stage of the patient's healthcare journey being eliminated and the management of medicines in pharmacy being revolutionised by better insight and more efficient services delivered through EMIS-X," said Andy Thorburn, EMIS Group CEO in a statement.

It will also support a video consultation feature following the rollout of Babylon, another NHS service of this type, which will allow patients to remotely have a GP appointment, without having to leave their home.

But how will the firm transfer 40 million of the sensitive patient records to the new platform safely?

Speaking to IT Pro, a spokesperson said: "For security reasons, we cannot disclose exactly how the records will be migrated, but can report that the method is highly secure, fully certified, and has been used for migration of critical data by the U.K. and other government departments. Copying records will take only a few weeks, but EMIS will operate dual data sources (with bi-directional updating) for some time to ensure service continuity."

The software which is used by over 10,000 UK organisations will reportedly migrate slowly, on a module-by-module basis which suggests it's taking the protection of data seriously.

The firm emphasised the importance it's placing on data protection by mentioning the "unprecedented levels of protection for patient data, including strong encryption of sensitive data" that the service will provide, Thorburn said.

"From the start, EMIS Group has led the way in interoperability and we have been working closely with clinicians and other customers during 2018 to develop EMIS-X. We believe it is the blueprint for the future of connected healthcare in the UK."

Federated Appointments is another new feature that will be rolled out in the new cloud-based variant. The feature allows clinicians to more easily search for appointments, such as an MRI scan, at a convenient location for the patient, waving goodbye to appointments made in other counties with unrealistic travel times.

This feature also transcends other healthcare software. If your local hospital doesn't run EMIS-X but has the closest available appointment, that appointment will still be booked, even if your GP does run EMIS-X.

EMIS Web, its current software, allows medical professionals to make alterations to Electronic Patient Records (ERPs) whether they work in primary, secondary or specialist healthcare organisations promoting more consistent care for patients between healthcare providers.

It's not clear at this time how long it will take to implement the new cloud-based service as the proposal needs to be approved by NHS Digital but from what the company are saying, it sounds like it will be a gradual migration process.

The NHS has embarked on a massive digital transformation in the past year, delivering new technology as a result of increased funding in a variety of areas. The controversial Babylon chatbot app, the NHS app and the new multi-million pound AI application to cancer detection and treatments have all made headlines in an effort to make healthcare in the UK more efficient.

"Late diagnosis of otherwise treatable illnesses is one of the biggest causes of avoidable deaths," PM Theresa May said in a speech on the government's industrial strategy. "The development of smart technologies to analyse great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than is possible by human beings opens up a whole new field of medical research and gives us a new weapon in our armoury in the fight against disease."

Earlier this year, the NHS also announced a slew of smaller, separate initiatives over the course of the year geared towards transforming aspects of the health service. These include a huge funding injection to local councils to help social care recipients and commitment to get private medical data to augment its own patient records.

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