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Photos: First look at Microsoft's NHS software

See the £40m prototype interface
By Gemma Simpson, Contributor on
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1 of 4 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

See the £40m prototype interface

Microsoft has unveiled a 'tailored' version of its Windows operating system to be used by National Health Service workers.

The Common User Interface (CUI) is only halfway through its four year development project but Microsoft has been showing off some working prototypes of the software.

Microsoft is offering the interface at a discounted price and claims the NHS will see £300m worth of procurement savings. The company also says the interface runs on any operating system - even Linux.

Andrew Kirby, director of NHS engagement at Microsoft, said the CUI puts the "NHS-ness in the Microsoft Office software".

Kirby added that it takes concepts from Microsoft's software to improve ease of use and limit training costs while not breaching patient security.

Pictured above is the patient overview screen which a doctor or nurse will see when they log on to a person's profile.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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2 of 4 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Microsoft will spend a total of £40m - just over one per cent of its £3.4bn annual development budget - on the CUI, for which the company solicited advice and information from around 180 clinicians.

The interface presents a variety of information in many different ways. Pictured is an X-ray of a bunion on the top half of the screen and on the lower half there are a selection of 'care pathways'.

The care pathways are basically segmented to-do lists reminding the clinician to take the patient's blood pressure, heart rate, send the X-ray to a foot specialist and so on.

The clinicians can bypass any steps they feel are unnecessary. Susan Brown, Microsoft's user experience program manager, said: "The expert will make the decisions, not the interface".

The software behemoth is still trying to decide how to present so much complex information to the user. Kirby said this is hard to do because clinicians want all the information they have available in one go.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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3 of 4 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

One of the main features of the software is a banner (shown at the top of the screen) which holds basic information about the patient - such as their name and date of birth - and a photo for identification.

It also has drop-down menus holding further information such as the patient's address.

Microsoft is currently developing a medication list application - that appears on the right-hand side of the image above - with automated alerts that come up if a patient is due a repeat prescription or is at risk of taking drugs which should not be combined.

The area at the bottom of the screen is where the doctor inputs his or her notes on a patient's symptoms. This uses an app called the NHS Abbreviations Manager which automatically asks the user which condition is covered by an abbreviation.

The application also automatically asks the user for more detailed notes. If, for example, a doctor types 'sore throat' the application will ask the doctor to specify whether the symptom is severe or moderate, for example.

The software can deal with the estimated 200,000 abbreviations and codes which clinicians use and holds a further 600,000 to 800,000 medical terms.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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4 of 4 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

The interface also lets clinicians see data in different formats - pictured above is a graph of how a patient's blood pressure has changed over time.

The current user can then find out more information about previous entries by clicking on the marker on the graph to find out details such as who took the measurement and where.

Although Microsoft refused to comment on how much they are charging the NHS for the software, any savings should come as good news to Richard Granger, NHS IT director general.

Granger has previously stated his demand for much bigger discounts on Microsoft software based on the NHS' bulk purchasing power of up to 900,000 licences.

He even launched trials of Linux software at the end of last year in what many saw as an attempt to force Microsoft's hand.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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