Impact Case Study

Setting the standards for NHS healthcare IT systems

A method for evaluating healthcare information systems developed by the university plays a key role in management of NHS computer systems.

How it started

From the 1980s onwards, healthcare providers began to focus on the potential benefits of introducing IT systems. Hundreds of systems were put forward, but they just didn’t deliver the benefits needed. Sometimes they even held back effective practice.

What we did

In 1996, university researchers worked with the NHS to develop the PROBE (Project Review, Objective Evaluation) methodology for measuring the effectiveness of healthcare IT systems. PROBE was accepted by the NHS and the HM Treasury as the core method for this purpose.

By improving the measurement of NHS IT systems, PROBE has benefitted clinicians, patients and NHS decision makers alike.

Why it matters

The widespread introduction of PROBE in 2001 has changed the way IT system projects are implemented in the NHS. It’s now at the heart of all NHS IT processes and PROBE has been used in life-saving interventions including the UK’s Blood Safety Tracking System. PROBE was vital in redesigning blood transfusion management systems. This was in response to a number of deaths and serious complications caused by giving patients the wrong type of blood.

The effectiveness of the new blood tracking system was examined using the PROBE method showing that patient safety had been improved. Monitoring and management of blood stocks was better too.

Ultimately, PROBE has improved patient welfare, potentially saved lives and changed the delivery of public services.

As The Head of Patient and Public Partnerships, NHS Connecting for Health, Dr. Toto Anne Gronlund confirms, "PROBE was used systematically by most of the 17 projects that were part of the Electronic Record Development and Implementation Programme. This evaluation data is still being used, informing the development of the current Information Strategy (The Power of Information)."