Plans to redesign local health systems can only succeed if the organisations involved are able to access patient records and other service information efficiently.

For patient data this can be achieved by creating an integrated patient record that combines all of the records created by each provider in the local health economy into a single source of information which is easily accessible by any clinician treating the patient.

If an integrated patient record does not exist, or is in the process of being created, then organisations need to make sure they have information governance processes in place that allow lawful sharing of data. For electronic records, that may mean finding a way of integrating information management and technology systems of different organisations.

There are many different solutions to this and all of them need to address the challenges posed by:

  • The various different electronic patient records systems used by different providers
  • The differing stages of digitisation of providers with, for example, GPs being further ahead than many hospitals and small or medium-sized health and social care providers
  • Varying levels of Information Governance Toolkit compliance
  • Whether information systems can be transferred or licensed to other organisations involved in a new care model
  • The different levels of understanding about information governance and what patient data can and cannot be shared lawfully.

Whether a new care model involves setting up new organisational forms or a series of joint ventures and partnerships between organisations, it will be vital to develop a strategy for addressing these challenges.

When considering how information can be shared between organisations the first step is to be clear about the data that is to be shared and the purpose of sharing it. For personal data such as patient data the next step is to identify the lawful basis for sharing that information, including, for example, the direct provision of care to the patient. In so doing, the rights of data subjects will need to be considered.

Protocols and information sharing agreements will need to be put in place to make sure arrangements are clearly documented.

Sharing information and integrating technology – key questions

  • Have you developed or are you developing an integrated patient record system?
  • If not have you considered how you are going to share information, including patient data, between organisations providing integrated services?
  • Do information management and technology systems need to be integrated with other organisations?
  • Can you access support to help deliver the IT integration, whether from CSUs, Academic Health Science Networks or private sector expertise?
  • Do you understand the purpose of sharing data and the lawful basis for doing so?

Next: Commissioning a new care model

Previous: Getting the governance right

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