Oxford Acute Referrals System Over the past year, OCC designers have been spending a lot of time in a hospital.

Their job was to meet the doctors, consultants and managers who would be using a new online system for managing referrals of neurosurgery patients to the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

As the NHS consolidates specialist services in centres of excellence, referrals will tend to increase in number and complexity, requiring multiple individuals within large care teams to work together. The goal of the new system was to enable the efficient sharing of accurate information among specialists and teams spread across the Trust.

The Oxford Acute Referrals System (OARS) is the new OCC web app that meets this goal. It enables doctors, consultants and managers to message each other rather than lift a receiver and keeps a record of conversations that all those involved can see. In future, OARS could even be used to communicate with patients and their carers as well. The system is compatible with the NHS’s own Electronic Patient Record systems.

Summary of referral system

A consultant’s life is busy, with constant interruption from pagers and corridor conversations. By conducting interviews with the users and then testing the prototype at the hospital itself, the designers were able to see for themselves the needs of the multiple users and the demanding environment they will be using it in. Out of this came the understanding that the user interface had to clearly tell the doctors which messages they had already read and which had been read by others and show the stage that a referral had progressed to. The design process even showed that the data entry form had to be short and saved by the app in case the user was called away.

OARS is now in use in the neurosurgery department. But the design and development process has been carried out in consultation with other departments too, allowing OCC’s app to be used in many more services in future.

In OCC we found an organisation that could work with us to take our ideas forward into a live clinical application that’s now improving patient care and helping us work smarter.
Nick de Pennington
Project Lead and Neurosurgeon, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust