Hannah Gowers OpenEyes We Are the NHS advert

Trust uses innovative IT software to improve eye care

1 April 2019

It’s a state-of-the-art computer-based patient record system used by the ophthalmology department at East Kent Hospitals, and it’s really opened people’s eyes as to how technology can help their work area.

Called, OpenEyes, the system allows medics to update and keep track of patients records in real time.

It also cuts down on paper, keeps their case history in one place, makes communicating with patients about future appointments easier and even alerts their GPs of their treatment.

And, amazingly, the system is free. That’s because it uses open source software and costs nothing to download.

This means that those that do download it are free to modify it and distribute it to anyone at no charge – and this collaborative nature means that users can organically improve what the software does and how it works.

OpenEyes was originally developed by Moorfields Eye Hospital in London at a cost of £3.5 million and East Kent Hospitals was one of two trusts used as a pilot for it – the other was Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. 

It was put in place in 2016 and has since been deployed across 40 sites across the world.

Hannah Gowers, who works at East Kent Hospitals as an IT project manager, and features in a national campaign to recruit more IT professionals to the NHS, said: “The OpenEyes system has revolutionised the way our ophthalmic experts work at the trust.

“East Kent is very forward thinking when it comes to IT and is moving fast to try to utilise technology to speed up processes, cut treatment delays and help medical staff do their job instead of getting bogged down with paper work.

“We’re now finding it has some really strong benefits.”

OpenEyes is an electronic medical record application which is easy to use and fast. It runs in a web browser to ensure that it can be accessed from just about any device in any location. 

Before it was brought in clinicians could quite often find it difficult to access patients’ medical records – as they would work across all of the trust's hospitals and they were not all available electronically.

They would also spend a lot longer logging details, treatments and diagnosis as well as contacting patients and their GPs about these.

But now this system does it all for them. And it is even multi-layered, allowing the clinician to use eye drawing tools to record their findings, making for an automated diagnosis. Colleagues can also be shown the eye draws and wider record in real-time.

It is used across five work streams at the Trust – cataract, eye casualty, glaucoma, medical retina, and vitreo retinal, which are the main areas for patient treatment.

But the major beauty of the system is its simplicity and the fact that those that use it can play an active part in its future design.

Users can even get involved and become a trustee of the OpenEyes Foundation Board enabling them to give first rate feedback about the system.

 With an ageing population and an increase in people who need treatment for their eyes in the area, East Kent Hospitals is now looking to develop their OpenEyes software further so that it is embedded across Kent – including with GPs and Optometry providers.

Hannah said the fact that it is clinician designed is one of its biggest benefits.

She added: “This system shows what can be achieved when clinicians and IT work closely together.

“It’s about really understanding what the clinical staff do and how we can help to take away some of the more laborious functions.

“OpenEyes software reduces transcription errors in handwriting and can be used across all sites as it is web-based. It also reduces the need to use paper so it is great for the environment and so much more secure.

“Changes like this are really making a difference and the NHS needs to harness the digital age as much as possible.

“The fact that this is open source is great as it means there is no licence to pay and that everybody is a partner who can contribute.”