Record sharing to improve the safety of care for vulnerable people

With over one and a half million people aged over 65 in the UK classified as frail, one in six adults in England are recorded as having a common mental health disorder and with more than 250,000 homeless people in England too, supporting health services in providing safe, effective care for vulnerable, frail and elderly people has never been more important.

To improve the quality and safety of care provided to these patients, steps are already being taken to create new models of care, bridging the gaps between primary, secondary and community care, as well as pharmacies across the country, but there’s still a lot more than can be done to help join up patient information between care settings. 

The Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) that have been formed across local health economies are also helping to remove these divisional boundaries, and ensure that care can easily move from more traditional areas, to settings that improve care for patients, and boost efficiencies for teams too.

Just one change can make a big difference

It doesn’t always have to be a series of radical changes that need to happen to improve care. Sometimes, just one simple change – like helping to move care closer to home, or giving patients the tools to be able to be involved in their own care – can make a huge difference to patients and healthcare professionals.

It may seem like a huge step, but by giving all the healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care access to an electronic patient record, rather than keeping multiple, separate paper records, can be the single change that makes the biggest difference to a patient and the care they receive.

Pioneering homeless healthcare in Bristol

In Bristol, doctors at the Homeless Health Service are providing care that is safer and more likely to lead to improvements in the health of homeless people in the area, thanks to having a more comprehensive understanding of patient’s medical, social and psychiatric history with an electronic shared record. 

“Using EMIS Web has been tremendously helpful in supporting an integrated approach to tackling the complex health needs of homeless people”

Dr Michael Taylor, lead GP at the Homeless Health Service

Dr Michael Taylor, lead GP at the Homeless Health Service, explained: “Accessing the GP records of clients who visit the homeless health service, with their permission, means that we have a much more comprehensive idea of the health issues that they face. Using EMIS Web has been tremendously helpful in supporting an integrated approach to tackling the complex health needs of homeless people.”

Tackling the complex health issues facing homeless people is not always easy, particularly as many of them lead lives that bring them into contact with many different health and social care professionals. The pioneering work being done by the BrisDoc Homeless Health Service show the benefits that integrated care can bring.

Improving end-of-life care in Cheshire with record sharing

East Cheshire Hospice in Macclesfield is securely sharing vital data with other organisations to improve end of life care for patients. Helen Knight, clinical and operations director of the hospice said: “End of life care involves often complex and sensitive discussions with patients, whether it is about their preferred place of death or decisions that may be taken on their behalf once they’re no longer able to. Being able to record that information and ensuring it is visible to the right people at the right time is crucial."

“We have shown that with a coordinated approach and a great, interoperable IT system, we can collect and share patient data to improve patient care”

Mike Drew, ICT manager for East Cheshire hospice

Mike Drew, ICT manager for the hospice explained: “We have shown that with a coordinated approach and a great, interoperable IT system, we can collect and share patient data to improve patient care. We are very proud that the technology is helping our patients to end their lives with dignity and in the way that they wish."

East Cheshire Hospice is now working to help other hospices implement an electronic patient record system and so far, almost 30 other hospices have visited them to see the difference it has made.

Speedier treatment decisions in Greater Glasgow

Twenty two child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) teams covering Greater Glasgow and Clyde are securely sharing vital patient information within a single care record. Karen Lamb, programme lead at NHSGGC describes the change to electronic patient record sharing as “transformational” in allowing clinicians to make informed decision more quickly – particularly since they can make risk assessments based on a patient’s mental health history. 

“Record sharing has been transformational in allowing clinicians to make informed decisions more quickly”

Karen Lamb, programme lead at NHSGGC

Real-time information sharing has also helped speed up processes. Not only are clinicians saving around two hours a month through reduced paperwork, but colleagues in different areas and teams are able to instantly communicate with each other too.

“One case involved a vulnerable young person with suicidal thoughts who was taken to A&E following an incident of self-harm,” Karen explained. “The psychiatrist assessing the patient called on a member of the CAMHS inpatient team, who was able to access the notes from EMIS Web.” From this call, the psychiatrist was “able to ascertain that the patient’s risk of suicide was low but her risk of self-harm was very high,” and was therefore able to “discharge the patient to a suitable environment to ensure her safety.”

Going digital

In all three examples, the healthcare organisations have found that it’s much easier to provide safer, more joined-up and more efficient care with the help of electronic patient records. The need for duplication is reduced, and often teams can access vital information about patients that they could never access before. 

To find out more about how we can help, email or call 0330 024 1268.

This article was written by Ian Bailey, district nurse, Queen’s Nurse and senior clinical informatics consultant for EMIS Health