DOCTORS could soon be changing patient charts for iPads in an ambitious plan to turn Hinchingbrooke Hospital into an ‘e-hospital’.

Circle, the private company that manages the Huntingdon hospital, is in the process of developing an integrated health system that would allow doctors and nurses to access and update patient records on iPads, iPhones or other smartphones. GPs and district nurses would also be able to access the system.

The company said it believed the system would enhance patient care by speeding up a number of processes, such as stopping lengthy waits for patients collecting prescriptions after they have been discharged. A new tracking system would also be part of the e-hospital - patient information would be contained in a card on patients' wrist bands and would be scanned as they enter and exit wards, allowing doctors to see if patients were being held up.

Michael Watson, operations manager, said that at the heart of the e-hospital was an integrated health system where doctors, GPs and district nurses all had access to the same information.

"It is already something that has been introduced in the USA and this idea is being investigated by other hospitals in the country," he told The Hunts Post. "It's about improving the standard of care and developing an integrated health system which is an idea that has been discussed and supported for many years.

"With district nurses, GPs and consultants all being able to see the same information, it will improve care in hospital and at home."

The change-over to digital records will begin next year and take about three years to complete.

Mr Watson added: "It won't be put into place overnight. We are looking to start trials from April 2014 with a full integrated health system introduced over three years. It is not a cost saving measure, and in fact we may have to put money into it."

Patients with long-term conditions such as diabetes or asthma would also benefit by being able to input test results into the system or get reminders to take their medication.

"If the patient is recording test results onto the system and they feel their condition is worsening, they can call their GP who would be able to see real-time information and advise on what actions to take and whether to see a GP or go to hospital," Mr Watson continued. "By monitoring chronic conditions like this, patients can avoid being admitted to hospital which can be distressing and there is a higher risk of picking up an infection from other people at hospital."

Future improvements in tablet and smartphone security technology would mean patient records would stay safe and that the plan wouldn't go ahead if there were any security concerns," Mr Watson reassured.