Digital information-sharing can power the future of healthcare – but only if it’s safe and secure, says Professor Maureen Baker, chair of the Professional Record Standards Body and a GP. The PRSB plays a crucial role in developing and publishing standards for digital patient records.
In this new article, Professor Baker explains why digital standards are a fundamental component of a connected healthcare system – and the future of care
For GPs and practices, the world of healthcare is changing quickly. Last year, about half of GP appointments involved people with long-term conditions, who are often seen by multi-disciplinary teams in a range of settings as part of their care. Many of these patients are elderly, and have more than one condition, and good management of their care is vital. More people of all ages are being managed in the community and by primary care now – which means GPs need to work closely with other professionals.
We are also seeing the role of GPs changing, as people get more involved in their own care and want to work alongside their professionals to achieve the best health outcomes. Better information can help to prevent and control illness, as well as helping us to identify at risk populations in order to intervene earlier when necessary.
Meanwhile, in line with the government’s vision and the NHS Long Term Plan, we’re expecting to see huge advances in the use of digital technology in health and care; but to enable this, the system needs to change.
Access to relevant information is going to be instrumental in supporting the future of integrated care and enabling new digital technologies to succeed; for example, AI can only be a truly useful tool if we have the right data to support it. But how do we ensure that professionals have access to the right information in a timely manner? And how can we be sure that data is high quality enough to be used for secondary purposes, such as research?
The Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB) is a non-profit organisation, dedicated to the development and publication of standards for digital patient records. Working closely with clinicians, social workers, patients and other professionals, we determine what information needs to be recorded in a person’s record, so that it can be shared between different systems within health and care.
The standards we create ensure that the right people involved in a person’s care will have access to the information they need, making care better, safer and more efficient.
Our digital care and support planning standard, which was published last year, aims to move paper-based care and support plans to digital communications. It means that care plans can be created and maintained by the people receiving care, as well as the health and care professionals supporting them, improving communication and leading to safer care and better management. Helping to bridge the gap between health and social care services, it will also support care in the community.
In addition to supporting integrated care, the PRSB has developed standards for transfers of care so that professionals have access to a patient’s information when they move between services. The first of these, the e-discharge summary standard, is currently being implemented by trusts across the UK.
To support practices and healthcare professionals, we’ve developed a series of training videos to raise awareness on their use and demonstrate the benefits; these videos are supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners. Access to information after hospital discharge can help GPs and other professionals to offer the best follow-up care possible, leading to a reduction in hospital readmissions and better and safer care for patients.
As well as a standard for e-discharge summaries, the PRSB has published other care transfer standards, including mental health discharge, crisis care, emergency care discharge and outpatient letters, a standard for clinical referral information. GPs and other professionals have contributed to this work so that we can ensure that we are sharing exactly the right information with secondary care services – so that they have everything they need to continue care for our patients.
Good information-sharing can improve integration between different health and care services and settings, and means that GPs can use their time as appropriately as possible, without having to worry they are missing out on vital pieces of information. Joined-up services also make the experience feel more personal for the patient, enabling them to manage more of their own care.
Alongside our standards, INTEROPen and NHS Digital have published technical standards, called fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR), that will allow different systems to talk to each other and share this information.
For the GP community, it’s vital that we see digital records as more than a compliance exercise and appreciate how accessible information can make a real and positive impact on the lives of our patients.
If you would like to see a full list of the standards we have produced – and those we are working on – please visit the PRSB website. To get involved with our work and the development or implementation of standards, please contact [email protected].