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Photos: MoD unveils £80m IT health programme

Joining forces with the NHS for electronic records
By Gemma Simpson, Contributor
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1 of 5 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Joining forces with the NHS for electronic records

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled an £80m electronic military medical records system.

The system, due to be fully rolled out by 2010, allows military personnel health records to be transferred between practices electronically, instead of using the traditional paper-based system.

Derek Twigg MP, under secretary of state of defence, said: "The days of paper records are numbered."

Twigg added: "Whether they [service personnel] are in Birmingham, Cyprus or the Falklands, [medical staff] will have access to up-to-date medical records."

By 2010, these electronic records will be accessible in any of the 299 medical and 181 dental Defence Medical Services (DMS) centres which the MoD runs around the globe, as well as field hospitals and 25 Royal Navy ships.

The Defence Medical Information Capability Programme (DMICP) system will hold the records of 200,000 military personnel, along with 50,000 civilian medical records.

Mike Manson, assistant director medical information management in the DMS department of the MoD, said: "This population is roughly equivalent to an NHS primary healthcare trust but the big difference is that we operate worldwide."

Pictured is a mock-up of an aid post which the MoD would deploy on a battlefield.

Photo credit: Gemma Simpson

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2 of 5 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

When being treated on the field, military personnel will each have an individual memory stick loaded with their health records as a back-up until they reach a military medical or NHS facility.

The medical staff on the field can also input information about any treatment a patient may receive by putting the memory stick into a PDA or wrist-worn PDA system (pictured), which they can wear while treating a patient and inputting medical information.

The memory stick is still under development but the MoD envisages it will be incorporated into a soldier's dog-tag to make sure it doesn't get lost.

Robert Baxter, deputy chief of defence staff at the MoD, said: "The DMICP gives us the chance to have information that is timely, accurate and relevant".

Photo credit: Gemma Simpson

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3 of 5 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

The Defence Medical Information Capability Programme (DMICP) system is being rolled out to all UK Army medical facilities.

The system will then be implemented in the Defence Dental Services, Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Navy and permanent overseas bases by August 2008.

After 2008, a version of the system will be available in field hospitals, on board ships and on the battlefield via laptops and other portable equipment.

Pictured is an MoD officer with a PDA which would be used to input patient information.

Photo credit: Gemma Simpson

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4 of 5 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

From 2010, the system will be connected to the NHS systems but with any sensitive military information stripped out.

It will also mean the NHS medical records of new recruits can be imported directly into the Defence Medical Services' systems, and records can be exported back to civilian GPs on retirement.

The entire system will also be searchable with all personal details removed - to search for trends, for example how many military personnel have given up smoking in the past 12 months.

Jonathan Cox, clinical policy officer for the Army Primary Healthcare Service, said searching for such patterns is not possible at the moment without having to ask every MoD medical centre to go through every record and collate that information.

Photo credit: Gemma Simpson

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5 of 5 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Around 25 primary healthcare services in the UK's East and South East regions have been connected to the system.

Pictured is a nurse using the system at the Colchester Garrison in Essex.

Baxter added the system will remove the "administrative burden" on MoD staff. It currently takes around 20 minutes to transfer a soldier's medical record between locations.

At the moment, military medical records are held on non-networked computers or on paper with service personnel likely to have more than one record as they move between different locations during their career.

Photo credit: Gemma Simpson

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