The National Pathology Exchange
The Health Informatics Service is host to the National Pathology Exchange (www.npex.nhs.uk).
NPEx (pronounced N-pex) connects NHS pathology laboratories across the UK to a national hub so that test referrals and results can be sent between laboratories electronically in a few seconds.
The NPEx service is available to all NHS pathology labs in the UK at no cost other than a modest support fee. Connecting to the national exchange allows a lab to use its lab system (LIMS) to send it’s test requests to any other lab on the exchange and receive the results back electronically straight into their LIMS. The savings on reduced paperwork can be around £2 per specimen with a much faster turnaround time for patients.
The Exchange was developed over a five year period by THIS and X-Lab Ltd with support from Accenture, Microsoft, the University of Leeds and Leeds Pathology Laboratory. Shortlisted for a national interoperability award in 2010, the exchange is built on industry-standard messaging software and uses the HL7 messaging standard and SNOMED-CT coding. NPEx was designed from the outset to be scalable to run all lab-to-lab messaging for the UK NHS and can easily be expanded to include more NHS laboratories, private hospitals and international users.
Labs which subscribe to the NPEx service:
- Save at least one day in the lab-to-lab referral process by receiving results electronically rather than via postal services
- Save the postage costs of sending paper based results back to requesting laboratories, including the direct postage cost, stationery and crucially the manual labour involved in handling paperwork
- Save the data entry costs of entering information about the test request into the receiving laboratory’s LIMS system and the data entry cost of entering information about the test results back into the requesting laboratory’s LIMS system
- Reduce the process delay inherent in the manual handling of paperwork and the batching of work for data entry at both requesting and receiving laboratories
- Improve data consistency and virtually eliminate transcription errors
- Reduce the number of ad hoc enquiries by e-mail and / or telephone on the status of test requests that have been referred by providing clear electronic status checking and automatic monitoring and escalation
- Reduce the amount of clinical and management time spent dealing with errors and ad hoc enquiries
- Provide laboratory managers with clear information about the volume of work being requested and performed and statistics on the turn-around performance of both requesting and receiving laboratories allowing bottlenecks to be identified and resolved over time.