Birmingham Children’s Hospital completes development of laboratory system for newborn blood screening

17 September 2009

Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH) has completed a project to improve laboratory services for screening of newborn babies in the West Midlands. The Hospital had contracted Winchester-based Integrated Software Solutions Ltd to implement a key subset of its OMNI-Lab laboratory management suite.

OMNI-Lab is being used to manage the screening of bloodspots, taken by heelprick from 70,000 newborn infants collected each year in the West Midlands region, either to exclude five serious diseases of infancy, or alert paediatricians to the need for further testing and/or possible treatment. This is part of the UK Newborn Screening Programme and is carried out in conjunction with 12 other centres of excellence nationwide, including Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, where OMNI-Lab is already in use.

The UK National Screening Committee recommends that all babies in the UK are offered screening for phenylketonuria (PKU), congenital hypothyroidism (CHT), sickle cell disorders (SCD), cystic fibrosis (CF) and medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD).
Identified early enough and with the right medication and follow-up during the early years, the impact of these conditions on the affected children can be greatly reduced or even eliminated. It is therefore vital that tests done on bloodspots indicating the possible presence of any of the conditions during the screening process are acted upon immediately and accurately, which is where OMNI-Lab comes in.

The newborn screening system manages the entire lab process, including:

  • receipt of blood spot cards from hospitals and midwives;
  •  registration of babies and tests, with full details of collection;
  •  interface to laboratory analysis hardware and automatic filing of results;
  •  provision of rules-based validation of results, based on lab-specified criteria;
  •  automatic generation of letters to midwives/PCTs to request any missing information (eg DoB, transfusion status) and for repeat/follow-up blood spot collections based on first blood spot quality and test results
  • elimination of human error arising from manual keying and re-keying of data;
  • ad-hoc statistical reporting; and
  • electronic interfaces to Child Health Authorities (CHAs) for upload of babies’ demographics and download of test results.

BCH needed a laboratory computer system that could be tailored to its requirements for newborn screening. Of particular importance was the ability to develop the electronic links to the various child health systems. These allow much of the process to be automated, which saves time and avoids potential errors from unnecessary reading and retyping of handwritten notes.

Paul Griffiths, Director of newborn Screening at BCH commented: “Even though we had anticipated the changes being brought about by the National Programme for IT and the individual choices being made by primary care trusts in the region, we wanted a company on board that would be able to work with us and be flexible enough to achieve our goals. I’ve found ISS’s response to be very good. They’re always willing to try things for us and were particularly helpful when we needed to convert 25 years of historic data and bring it into a new national system of coding for reporting results, a massive undertaking they achieved for us with complete success.”

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