A new study has found that key suppliers of electronic medical records need to do more to make their systems interoperable to “improve access to information” for millions of patients.

The Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London examined inconsistencies with electronic medical record (EMR) systems across 152 acute hospital trusts in NHS England over a one- year period.

Overall, researchers found at least 21 different EMR systems were in use, leading to “critical deficiencies”. Many of these systems are unable to effectively share information, putting patients who visit more than one hospital at risk.

About four million patients were treated at two or more hospitals which had different EMR systems between April 2017 and April 2018. Clinicians were unable to access a patient’s full medical record from another hospital some 11 million times in the same time period.

Although electronic medical records were designed to make combinations across the NHS more interoperable, the study found 77% of hospitals who use an EMR still face “major difficulties”.

NHS England’s Local Health and Care Records Exemplar (LHCRE) programme aims to alleviate problems surrounding interoperability through providing reference sites for sharing patient data to better support care, and developing Integrated Care Systems.